“It’s a very rare event,” Patrick Nerrant said about the auction to sell off his collection of 40 armored vehicles. They included 13 tanks, several military vehicles, planes, and other WWII military equipment and memorabilia in September 2016.
The Normandy Tank Museum, which he founded and where he housed most of his collection is now closed. Terrorist attacks in Paris and fuel refinery strikes took a toll on ticket sales. Visitors were just not coming, even though the museum was a stone’s throw from the Omaha and Utah beaches – the beaches stormed on D-Day in June 1944.
Nerrant says he caught his “virus for tanks” on a visit to Texas in 1984 where he met a man who had his own museum. Nerrant’s museum was not only about tanks. He points out the mannequins posed on or near the vehicles. They have on the correct uniforms etc and carry the appropriate equipment and weapons. He wanted visitors to see what it was like on D-day and says that was “the theme of the museum.”
Nerrant also wanted to educate young people who might not know much or anything at all about D-day. “I wanted to present tanks to show them why we’re free.” Those tanks include a 1944 Sherman M4, 1943 M26 Pacific, and a 1944 M24 Chaffee light tank. Unusual vehicles like the amphibious General Motors DUKW and a German Afrika Korps BMW motorcycle were also on the block.
The auction was organized by Artcurial auction house of Paris in the town of Catz, near Utah Beach. It was a sad occasion for Nerrant and his son and co-founder, Stephane. In the video below, you see bidders leaving with their purchases, many still on the mannequins like old friends moving on to a new home.
The sale netted around 3 million euros, and while Nerrant points out that it is not nearly enough to create another collection, he will likely not give up his passion and is already searching for more tanks.