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Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 14:39 UK
Nazi treasures uncovered in RAF Stafford collection
A bust of Adolf Hitler in RAF Reserve Museum
A bust of Adolf Hitler, captured in World War 2, is just one of the thousands of items in the collection.

Objects belonging to leading Nazis, one of the false legs of airman Douglas Bader, and an early plane were just some items revealed to BBC reporters when they were given rare access to the RAF Museums Reserve-Collection.

Thousands of objects are contained in warehouses at the RAF base in Stafford.

The collection acts as storage and back-up to the RAF's two public museums at Hendon and Cosford.

Objects from World War Two are among the most prized in the collection.

Curators have been tasked with cataloguing 80,000 or so objects.

Listen to more about the museum

BBC Radio Stoke tour

BBC Radio Stoke visited the complex in Spring 2010, and, over a week, compiled a profile of it.

It was the first time that BBC journalists had been given such access to the site.

The radio station's reporter Chris King was given a tour of the site, and you can hear his accounts by clicking on the links to the right.

He was allowed to view some objects that have not been seen in public for over fifty years, including prisoner-of-war escape kits, royal uniforms and war souvenirs including items from the plane that carried Nazi Rudolph Hess to Britain.

RAF reserve collection

Among a cornucopia of Royal Air Force militaria, there's everything from Spitfire wings and pilot mascots to flying suits and escape kits for POWs.

Nazi ceremonial sword
Nazi ceremonial swords have been donated

Ian Alder, the man in charge of the collection at Stafford, said: "The museum here is the third element of the RAF Museum project. We have two display museums open to the public: one at Hendon and one at Cosford.

"And at Stafford we are basically the 'hidden cellar' - where stuff is not on display but retained for historic purposes."

POW escape kit

The museum has a collection of objects used by prisoners of war to help them to escape.

One looks like a normal set of belt and braces but inside you have maps of the surrounding area, as well as German currency just in case. It was donated by a family member and so was more than likely used by actual POWs.

There's also a Bakelite disc that looks like your average 78" record, but if you split it, inside are maps and money. It's in quite good condition which means that it may have been a prototype, and was never actually sent out.

Record player
This record player contains a secret wireless

A record player (pictured right) was used by POWs for entertainment. But it also included a small receiver which would have allowed them to pick up BBC broadcasts so that they could keep up-to-date with what was going on in the war.

Such items were dangerous to keep in the camps, and would have earned heavy punishment for prisoners found in possession.

Uniformly fascinating

The uniform store contains clothing from well before the War - and from across the world.

There is a pair of boots from the 1890s which were made for a female member of the air force and were made locally in Stafford. It's unlikely they've ever been worn though, because they're in such good condition.

You'll also find some military clothing for royals in the museum. It houses uniforms of King George V, Edward VIII and George VI.

The latter was the only one to learn to fly, but they are dress uniforms. His jacket was also adjusted from its original 1920s to a 1951 style.

Objects that tell a story

The commemorative store is home to many personal items which have been donated by families and regiments.

Spitfire pilot
There are many different Spitfire parts in the museum

It includes a variety of things - including a propeller from the plane of the famous French pilot Louis Bleriot to half a cricket ball originally owned by Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, who was best known for inventing the bouncing bomb.

There's even a ladder from the aircraft of Rudolph Hess who was Hitler's second in command. He stole a plane and embarked on a mission to Britain, to try to negotiate a peace deal with Churchill. His plane crash-landed in Scotland, and he was arrested, interrogated and thrown into jail.

And there's a fake leg which belonged to RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader. It came from a hospital where he was treated during the 1950s. It doesn't go on display but is kept with permission from his wife.

Ian Alder describes all these objects in detail in our audio interviews.


Will the public ever get to see these items?

Apart from the impossibility of displaying nearly one hundred thousand items, cataloguing could still take years to finish.

However, it's hoped that in the near future a virtual museum of the objects can be created online as they are identified.

The online site will be attached to the present RAF Museums website .

RAF Museum: POW escape kits
10 May 10 |  People & Places
RAF Museum: The Uniform Store
11 May 10 |  People & Places
RAF Museum: The Lakes Waterbird
13 May 10 |  People & Places
RAF Museum: Commemorative Store
13 May 10 |  People & Places
RAF Museum: Hess and Bader items
13 May 10 |  People & Places



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