A classic French truck and movie prop that was used by winemakers and the Resistance during World War II is up for auction. Discovered amongst the thistles and brambles of a vineyard several decades ago, it’s seeking a good home once again.
The trusty vehicle, a converted Citroen, was originally owned by the Carrier family in Bordeaux. As reported by The Drinks Business, Ernest Carrier said it “belonged to his father who had used it on the farm and on occasion to transport members of the Resistance.”
The Citroen B12 had been modified by Carrier as a pick up. This necessary move meant it fell under the category “commercial vehicle” and was hence eligible for fuel from the Germans. Back in the day it was known for being a cheap and hard-wearing vehicle, according to auctioneers H & H Classics.
Reportedly the Nazis were only too happy to facilitate Carrier, hoping he’d bring them some delicious wine along the way!
Following its long service both at the vineyard and against the Nazis, it sat unused. The distinct symbols daubed on the bodywork show FFI (Free Forces of the Interior, or Free French Independence) and the Cross of Lorraine.
Led by future President Charles de Gaulle, the FFI were a fighting force that aided the French army. The Cross formed a patriotic response to Hitler’s swastikas.
It may have rusted away, were it not for a British tourist visiting the vineyard in the 1980s. H & H write he stumbled on the truck in the 1980s. He consequently learned of its noble history “during a long wine tasting session”!
The vehicle was taken off of Carrier’s hands and restored, finding a new lease of life in the UK. There it featured in various big and small screen productions recapturing former glories.
Now the Resistance roadster is on the market in the 21st century. H & H state it’s “a non-runner ready for a further restoration”.
Accompanying the truck is a selection of memorabilia, such as vintage magazines and photos to further enhance the sense of history. The auctioneers are keen to highlight the limited edition vehicle as a once in a lifetime purchase. They write: “In production for less than two years, surviving examples are an understandably scarce sight today.”
H & H’s John Markey believes this is a “unique and historically interesting vehicle”. He says the truck is “now in demand by filmmakers.” Markey adds: “There are not too many like this!”
The fascinating story behind the B12 is matched by an equally intriguing account of how French alcohol producers fought the Führer.
In the Champagne region, an unwelcome authority figure named Otto Klaebisch was placing unprecedented demand on winemakers. Known as the “weinfuhrer”, he pressured the likes of Moët & Chandon to produce gallons of their product for thirsty Nazis.
For the Germans, French wines were as sought after as works of art – items to be plundered to underline Hitler’s conquest. As reported by the New York Post in 2019, the man himself was a teetotaller, yet proudly kept half a million bottles at his Eagle’s Nest hideaway.
Count Robert-Jean de Vogüé ran Moët & Chandon. After a while the winemakers had had enough. Producers unionized and helped the Resistance. One act of defiance was to mislabel bottles so Nazis would consume substandard offerings.
Events were fictionalized in novel ‘The Winemaker’s Wife’ by Kristin Harmel. Quoted by the Post, the author says the Count “had everything to lose, and he didn’t hesitate. He stood up for his country because it was the right thing to do.”
He was eventually arrested and almost died at Ziegenhain concentration camp. When liberation came, he resumed his old job and lived till 1976.
Otto Klaebisch wound up in the dock, but De Vogüé opted not to testify against him. Instead the champagne maker blamed the Gestapo for his inhuman treatment.
The Post also notes the Champagne region’s key role in the war. General Eisenhower’s HQ was there, and official surrender documents were inked within its walls. The book on World War II was closed near vineyards. The perfect occasion for a toast!
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There’s no reserve price on the B12 truck. The auction takes place at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire on April 14th…