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Dead Letter Box

This cute dog ornament may look like a simple piece of household kitsch, but it has a secret function. The head of this dog ornament can actually be detached to reveal a hidden chamber. An object like this is known in the world of espionage as a ‘dead letter box’.

Agents and contacts use ‘dead letter boxes’ to leave and collect messages without meeting face to face. This indirect method of communicating would help to keep their activities secret. This dog ornament was found during a Field Security counter-intelligence operation in Allied-occupied Italy, during the Second World War. The flat of an Italian, who was suspected of sending radio messages to the Germans, was searched. The dog ornament was opened and it was found to contain micro-film ready to be collected by a German agent. The flat’s occupant was taken into custody.