The Czech Police Museum (Muzeum Policie ČR) – Prague

The Czech Police Museum (Muzeum Policie ČR) is housed in the grounds of a former Augustinian monastery that was founded by Charles IV back in 1350. In 1960 the site, which had been used as a convalescent home until 1955 and had subsequently fallen into disrepair, was handed over to the Ministry of Interior who established a Museum of the Frontier Guards in 1965. This evolved into a museum related to the Ministry of Interior and National Security before being remodeled as the Police Museum after the collapse of Communism.

I would describe this museum as an ‘old-school’ museum, relying on uniforms, weapons, life-size dioramas and equipment to tell the story of policing rather than the ‘bells & whistles’ interactive exhibit style which characterizes many museums today. For collectors, such as myself, this makes for a much more rewarding visit as we can examine objects rather than be presented with a game like simulations. In this instance the downside is that the captions and didactic information is mostly in Czech so it can often be difficult to understand the full context of what one is looking at. As a result, I apologise for the brevity of my picture captions as I could not always gather precise information about specific pieces on display.

czech police museum corridor-01

On the ground floor, the main part of the museum follows a meandering wide corridor which presents a chronological history of Czech law enforcement beginning with a history of policing from 1850 to 1938. It then moves onto exhibits detailing activities related to the second world war period, covering the security forces of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia as well as activities during the German occupation, including the May uprising and resistance. This is followed by post-war developments focusing on the establishment of the SNB (Sbor Národní Bezpečnosti – National Security Corps), Border Guard and the State Security (StB) apparatus. The museum then transitions to contemporary policing in the Czech Republic. These exhibits include lots of uniforms, weapons, equipment and photographs to give the visitor an idea of the transition over time as well as detailing specific organisational changes.

czech police museum uniform gallery -01

Uniforms worn by PPVB and OZU (ie. Red berets) circa 1989

Uniforms worn by PPVB (Emergency Public Security Unit) and OZU (Police Special Purpose Unit) at the time of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Photo: Julian Tennant

In addition, there are several rooms and antechambers that concentrate on specific aspects in more depth such as forensics, criminal investigation and traffic control. Upstairs are some very interesting galleries which explore aspects such as NBC and civil defence, anti-narcotic operations etc.

czech police museum prague-25

Various NBC protective garments on display at the Czech Police Museum, Prague. Photo: Julian Tennant.

One of the galleries that I found particularly interesting is devoted to the ÚRN (Útvar Rychlého Nasazení) also known as URNA which is the Special Operations unit of the Czech Police operating under the command of the Ministry of Interior.

Czech police special unit URNA (Útvar rychlého nasazení)

Czech police special unit URNA (Útvar rychlého nasazení) patches. Photo: Julian Tennant

Czech police special unit URNA (Útvar rychlého nasazení)

Czech Police counter terrorist URNA operative Afganistan display at the Police museum, Prague. Photo: Julian Tennant

The grounds outside the main building include several vehicles used by the police including patrol cars, watercraft and a Mil Mi-2 helicopter.  There is also a children’s traffic playground which is open to the public from April to October depending on the weather.

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Home made tank made between 1969 and 1970 by Vladimir Benes from the village of Hrusky in the Breclav region. On the night of May 19, 1970 he used this tank to take his wife and children to cross the border into Austria. During his attempt the tank broke down and he abandoned it but he was able to cross successfully and eventually settled in the USA where he died in 2009. In the background is a Mil Mi-2 helicopter used by the Czech Police. Photo: Julian Tennant

Despite the overall lack of English language didactic panels, I found this museum to be very interesting and like the Army Museum Žižkov (unfortunately now closed) definitely worth the visit. The museum is located approximately 2.5 kilometers south of the Old Town square (Staré Mesto námesti) and can be reached via public transport (with some walking). Instead, I opted for the half an hour walk as it was only marginally longer than the public transport option and also allowed me to detour past Vojenské Starožitnosti, a militaria dealer that offers a good selection of older medals, insignia and other military items.

Muzeum Policie ČR
Ke Karlovu 1
120 00 Praha 2 – Nové Město
Prague, Czech Republic

Phone: +420 224 922 183
Email: sekretariat@muzeumpolicie.cz
Website: http://www.muzeumpolicie.cz

Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 (Closed Mondays)

Entry Fees:
Adults 100 CZK
Children/Seniors/Concession 50 CZK
Family Group (2+s) 200 CZK

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Malaysia trip report #1- Two days in KL.

For my latest trip to Vietnam I decided to fly AirAsia and stop over in Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days to check out some of the military related museums and also see if I could find any interesting bits of militaria for my collection. Browsing the net I identified the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum and the Malaysian Armed Forces Museum as places of interest. I wasn’t able to find much information on militaria or antique dealers worth visiting, but fellow collector Sin Cheng Soon came to the rescue and suggested a couple of places which may be worthwhile.

Day 1. The Royal Malaysian Police Museum. First stop was the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, which is located at Lake Gardens, adjacent to the KL Bird Park, National Planetarium and a short walk from the Islamic Art Museum. Whilst walking past the latter I noticed an advertisement highlighting their arms and armour collection so decided, if time permitted, to include it on my itinerary.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

One of the many interesting armoured vehicles found in the grounds of the Police Museum, the “Armoured Wickham Trolley” (AWT) armoured car was used by the Federation of Malaya Police during the emergency from 1953 until 1960 as a pilot train and guard vehicle. It carried up to six policemen at any one time.

Entry to the museum is free but photography is forbidden within the exhibition areas. The restriction on photography was a disappointment as the museum is extremely well planned and executed, with some very interesting and unusual artefacts that will be of interest to all militaria enthusiasts. I was able to discretely take some photos on my iphone, but they really do not do justice to the museum.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

As can be expected, the various regional as well as Federal police forces in Malaysia played an important role in the ‘Emergency,’ which was in reality a guerrilla war but so named because of commercial concerns regarding the terminology and its effect on insurance policies. The museum is divided into four principle areas. The grounds surrounding the building feature a number of the larger exhibits including armoured vehicles, numerous artillery pieces, a police boat and fixed wing Cessna aircraft.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

Pre Federation uniforms and plaques in Gallery A of the Police Museum.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum.

Federated Malay States Police Cap, 1920

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

‘Songkok’ (cap) used by the Deputy Commissioner of Johore Police

Entering the first exhibition area, Gallery A, you can see the various uniforms and insignia worn by the different regional police units since formation in Penang in 1807. There are also weapons, artefacts and a good overview of how Law & Order was maintained in the Malacca Sultanate era, through conquest by the Portuguese in 1511, then Dutch and finally British rule.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

Improvised ‘hand guns’ made by chopping down .303 Lee Enfield bolt action rifles.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum

Quite an unusual item in Gallery B. A very rarely seen grenade launcher built on to an M-2 Carbine. Up until seeing this example in Gallery B I thought that the only option for this weapon was the M8 type launchers.

Gallery B continues the historical timeline and also includes the weapons gallery, which includes a very interesting cross section of small arms used by the police forces and also seized during the Emergency. There are some interesting examples of modified and home made weapons, including .303 SMLE rifles that had been ‘chopped down’ and converted to pistols as well as firearms ‘scratch-built’ by the Communist guerrillas in their secret workshops. There are also displays of medals and contemporary police uniforms within this gallery.

Gallery C features displays from the ‘Emergency period’, the ‘Confrontation’ with Indonesia as well as more displays relating to general policing and criminal activities. As with the other galleries, there are interesting ‘case histories’ throughout the exhibits giving insights into criminal gangs and specific incidents. I found the Royal Malaysian Police Museum to be extremely well planned, the exhibits to be well preserved and presented.

Royal Malaysian Police Museum, 5 Jalan Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur. Open 10am to 6 pm everyday except on Mondays. 10am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 6pm on Fridays. Tel: +6 03 2272 5689

Pertama Complex

A selection of current Malaysian badges in the shop window of Uni Karisma Dagang shop at the Pertama Complex

Militaria Shops. Fellow collector Sin Cheng Soon suggested a couple of places that I could check out. First stop was the Malay Trading Company a military tailor’s shop that has been around for some time. It can be quite difficult to find and even my taxi driver had to ask for directions to confirm its location, so if you’re a first time visitor planning to visit, print out a map, the address and take a taxi. Whist there are still some faded 1950’s era posters, featuring British rank and qualification insignia on the walls, stocks of any of these are long gone and the shop only has a limited range of contemporary Royal Malaysian Armed Forces uniform items available for sale. They do still manufacture many badges and all their metal insignia has their MTC logo stamped on the reverse. I was able to pick up some generic Malaysian parachutist and pilots wings for my collection, but no specific unit insignia.

Malaya Trading Company

Exterior of the long running ‘Malaya Trading Company’. Because of its slightly hard to find location, I’d suggest using a taxi and take a map. My driver had to stop twice to ask for directions to the exact location.

Malaya Trading Company

TSG Malaysia Trading SDN. BHD, formerly known as the Malaya Trading Company.

TSG Malaysia Trading SDN. BHD (Formerly known as Malaya Trading Co.) 93 Jalan Medan Bunus Jalan Masjid India 50100, KL Ph: +60 3 2698 5825

Location of Malaya Trading Co and Pertama Complex military tailors

Using my map I was able to walk from the Malaya Trading Company to the Pertama Centre, which is one of KL’s older shopping malls. Squeezed in the left corner on the bottom floor are a couple more military tailor’s stores which feature more of the same, although the selection is somewhat larger than the MTC and includes some camouflage, field gear and equipment items. If you are chasing contemporary Malaysian military items and you know precisely what you are looking for, including the Malaysian names then these guys may have it, but once again, only contemporary issue items and I was unable to find any older obsolete insignia. The larger of the two shops is

Uni Karisma Dagang GF 06, Imej Ceria Pertama Complex Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, 50100 Kuala Lumpur Ph: +60 3 2694 1229

Pertama Complex

Uni Karisma Dagang, tucked away in the bottom corner of the Pertama Complex.

Day 2. The plan was to visit the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces Museum (Muzium Angkatan Tentera Malaysia) that according to the information gleaned from the Internet was supposed to be located within the Army base at Jalan Padang Tembak. However upon arrival I was told that the museum had been relocated to the town of Port Dickson, so nothing to report here.

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Aircraft hanger at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum

Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum.  Next on the list was the Air Force Museum, which was quite easy to find as it’s located at the old KL airport which can be seen from the freeway as you drive in to Kuala Lumpur from the International Airport.

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Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum

I was particularly interested in the uniform and insignia exhibits, however these were all closed for renovation and when I asked when they would be reopening, the Air Force Duty Officer said that he did not know as they were awaiting a budgetary allocation to commence the refit. So, instead I had to be content with the aircraft hanger containing the various obsolete aircraft that had been used by the RMAF over the course of its history and the selection of rusting hulks in the field outside. Worth a visit if you are an aircraft buff, but at the present time, there is nothing else of interest as everything apart from the aircraft hanger is closed to the public. If you are an aviation patch collector you can buy examples of all the RMAF Squadron patches for RM10 each at the entrance gate.

The selection of RMAF patches available for sale at the Air Force museum.

The selection of RMAF patches available for sale at the Air Force museum.

Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum c/o RMAF Base Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama, 50460 KL Ph: +60 3 241 1133 ext 4129 / 4198 Open: 10am – 4pm Saturday – Thursday Closed: Fridays and public holidays. http://www.malaysian-musuems.org/rmaf

National Museum Negara

National Museum Negara. The small selection of items related to the Japanese occupation of Malaya during WW2.

So, with a bit of time on my hands, I decided to head to the Islamic Art Museum to check out their Arms & Armour collection. Along the way I stopped off at the National Museum Negara, which details the history and peoples of Malaysia. Like the Police museum this is a first class museum with good exhibits that are well presented and preserved. There isn’t a great deal of military items on display, I was hoping for more about the Colonial period and Japanese occupation during WW2 (a bicycle, Jap helmet and a few swords) but it does exhibit some interesting examples of Malaysian Kris’ and other regional edged weapons.

Islamic Art Museum Malaysia. Another well-presented museum where photography is prohibited, the museum, as it’s name suggests, details the art and design related to the Islamic faith. I particularly enjoyed looking at the scale models outlining significant mosques throughout the world and their small selection of arms & armour dating back several centuries is well worth a look.

Islamic Art Museum

Islamic Art Muesum. Ottoman Turk double-barrelled flintlock pistol with concealed dagger. Walnut woodwork inlaid with silver and overlaid with gold. Circa 19th Century.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Jalan Lembah Perdana 50480 Kuala Lumpur Ph: +60 3-2274 2020 Open: 10am – 6pm everyday Admission: RM12 (adult) http://www.iamm.org.my

Overall, I found that with some planning, the two days transit time that I had before heading to Vietnam were more than sufficient to cover the areas I wanted to see, plus still have time to relax with a cold beer and escape the oppressive humidity. English is widely spoken so there is no difficulty in communicating or reading the descriptive plaques at the museums. I mostly used a taxi to commute between locations and I would suggest that if doing the same, only take one where the driver is prepared to use the meter, in my experience these guys are more honest and helpful than the taxi’s loitering near the tourist traps who insist on outrageous fixed prices and are quite reluctant to find specific locations if they’re not immediately known to them. On my return journey I’ll pass through Malacca where I visit the Royal Malaysian Navy Museum and return to KL via Port Dickson so that I can see the Armed Forces Museum.