Among the 1,600 folders of documents reported missing since 2005 are letters from Sir Winston Churchill to General Franco, the Spanish dictator; minutes of Harold Wilson's meetings with the Queen; and documents from the courts of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles I.

Dozens of regimental diaries, medal records and squadron and battleship logbooks have also seemingly disappeared. Some of the files, many of which contain the sole copies of historical documents, have not been seen since the early 1990s and fewer than a half have been recovered, according to a register of missing items released under freedom of information laws.

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