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Tuesday, August 18, 1998 Published at 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK


Mussolini's hat ahead of the field

Mussolini's hat and other possessions were liberated by a British pilot

A boat-shaped hat topped bids at an auction of Mussolini memorabilia.

The black boat-shaped mutz hat once owned by the Italian fascist dictator was sold for 2,300 to a private bidder.

It was among a collection of books, private papers and other effects liberated from Mussolini's personal library by a British pilot at the end of World War II.

Captain H Richard Beck retrieved the items from the abandoned Villa Carpena, near Mussolini's native village of Predappio, when he was stationed there towards the end of the war.

'A piece of history'

His haul, which went under the hammer in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, also included an unpublished photograph of Mussolini and his mistress, books, family photographs and personal letters.

The 57 lots were put up for sale by the late Captain Beck's family and raised a total of 7,500.

Captain Beck's flying log book, with entries referring to his duties at the villa, fetched 850 but many of the items went for between 15 and 50.

Richard Scales, from Leeds, spent just 15 on a newspaper cutting highlighted by Il Duce's pen.

He said: "I don't really know what I've bought, but it's a piece of history for 15. You can't go wrong."

'I'm amazed at the reaction'

After the sale, auctioneer Ian Peace said that as far as he knew, it had been the biggest lot of Mussolini memorabilia ever.

He said: "I'm amazed at the reaction. I had my own estimates and everything has gone really well.

"I'm particularly pleased and amazed with the 2,300 for the hat, it's a lot of money for a hat.

"For a lot of people, it was a chance to pick up a piece of history for not a lot of money."

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