St Mere Eglise Airborne Museum Director May Face Jail Time

On January 15th, 2014, the RFI English reports a story of a museum boss who found himself in court for allegedly trading WWII weaponry.

The former head of a museum that was devoted to US paratroopers in France’s D-Day landings may be facing a suspended prison sentence. The man was accused of selling WWII weaponry that was purchased with museum funds. Patrick Bunel, a former far-right activist, loaded an airplane, an armored car, and other memorabilia in his father’s shed.

Bunel managed the Airborne Museum in the Normandy town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise between 2008 and 2011. He is being accused of fraud, forgery, and a breach of trust.

Prosecutors have asked that he be given a two-year suspended prison sentence and his four accomplices, one of them was a museum employee and the others were dealers in WWII memorabilia, to be given a lighter suspended prison sentences.

The men will be sentenced on March 25, 2014.

Bunel, an activist for the far-right Front National during the 90s, is accused of drawing up fake bills to purchase goods like weapons, equipment, and aviators’ jackets. He the allegedly stocked the items in a shed that was only 85 kilometers away from the museum, which his father owned.

Bunel admits to having made the purchases, but he claims the bills had to be irregular because the sellers demanded to be paid in cash. He is accused of swindling the museum out of tens of thousands of euros. Prosecutor Eric Brouillard has described the items to have an “inestimable” historical value.

Bunel has left the museum in 2011 and now runs the Normandy Tank Museum that opened last year.

The Airborne Museum will be involved in the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 6 months’ time and is said to have an annual turnover of 1.2 billion euros.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE