Shhhh... don’t let on, old chap, but there’s a dagger hidden in this hairbrush.

A collection of secret Second World War weapons used by special agents – including a lump of killer coal – has been sold for £17,000.

The deadly items included a pink hairbrush that had a lethal dagger hidden inside and would have been carried by a “femme fatale” to use on an unsuspecting Nazi.

Other “innocent” domestic objects that concealed sharp blades included a fountain pen, a pencil, a hat pin and a smoking pipe.

A simple lump of coal that carried an explosive charge inside it to turn it into small bomb was also in the collection that belonged to Dunkirk veteran Arthur Muggeridge.

A piece of explosive coal ready for a charge to be installed

Other ingenious devices issued by MI9 to Special Operations Executive agents were two box of matches that concealed a secret compass and a telescope, as well as a miniature spy camera. The James Bond-style items were amassed over 40 years by Mr Muggeridge, who served in the Royal Engineers during the war and who died a decade ago.

They sparked fervent bidding from as far afield as Italy and Canada when they were sold by his family with East Bristol Auctions.

A match box concealing a tiny telescope

The top-selling lot was a pocket-watch camera which fetched £2,200, while the pipe with hidden dagger went for £520 and a shaving brush fitted with a compass achieved £320.

Auctioneer Andrew Stowe said of the collection: “This was real espionage work – secret meetings, coded messages, real cloak-and-dagger stuff.

A British bakelite shaving brush, dated 1945, fitted with a hidden escape & evade compass
Femme fatale... a ladies' hair brush with hidden dagger

“A big part of the MI9 operation was sending escape and evasion kits to agents and troops in occupied territories. Useful items like maps, compasses and even secret orders – anything to help them escape or evade capture.

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“Very often, these were ‘normal’ items that were sent in aid packages to camps and the way items were secreted was very often ingenious. People successfully made it back to Britain because of these quintessentially British objects. They saved lives.

“It’s a fantastic sale result – and unsurprising given the interest we had. We had bidders from around the globe competing including America, Italy, Spain and Canada. I think these lots really struck a chord with people.

“These items gave those trapped soldiers hope of escape.”