Whilst pilots and aircrew were issued parachutes for escape from an aircraft throughout World War Two, the RAF recognised that it was not always possible for aircrew to bale out in time before an aircraft landed, indeed if an aircraft was hit at low altitude it was often safer to crash land. Crash landings were seldom neat affairs, with the light construction of the aircraft easily mangled by the crash. If aircrew successfully survived the crash, they might not be able to escape the wreckage before fire caught hold. To help crews get out, the air ministry provided escape axes.
These axes were designed to cut through the thin aluminium of the fuselage and have a distinctive curved blade and pick design:The blade could cut through the aluminium, whilst the pick could shatter perspex windows or puncture holes. The handle is made of rubber, to insulate the user from electric shocks if the axe went through any live cables in the aircraft:
On the blade is the /|\ mark and a date of 1945:Ironically these axes seem to be virtually indestructible and are often one of the only recognisable finds at wartime crash sites. These axes are still issued in most aircraft, however they lack the military markings. There is evidence that glider troops at Arnhem took the axes with them when they exited the gliders and used them as a lethal close quarters weapon. Wartime ARP axes are virtually identical to the Air Ministry ones, but lack the /|\ mark and instead have the trademark ARPAX.
These axes turn up quite often and seem to go for around £35-£40, however cheaper examples come up in boxes of tools for a lot less.