The newly opened D-Day Collins Museum recreates General Joseph Lawton Collins’ VII Corps headquarters at Chateau de Franquetot, in the actual building itself where he met more than once with Generals Omar Bradley, George Patton and Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
And to give the site real authenticity, there are photos and film footage of Collins, Bradley & Eisenhower in the courtyard of the chateau on 5 July 1944, when they met to discuss Operation Cobra, the planned breakout from Normandy.
The museum, which opened in April this year (2023), is the brainchild of WW2 enthusiast and dealer in military vehicles and memorabilia, Philippe Tanne.
When he acquired the chateau in 2022, it was a perfect time capsule. The rooms in this part of the chateau, together with the furniture, paintings and accessories had not changed at all since July 1944. All Philippe had to do was clean up and move the furniture back into position!
Actually, there was a little more work than that. While the rooms on the first floor have been restored and configured as a series of dioramas or tableaux recreating scenes that took place here 80 years ago, the ground floor has been converted into a museum shop, the reception, a tea room and cafe/bar.
D-Day Normandy Posts
Gen Collins commanded the US Army VII Corps from his office on the first floor, and that is where the route through the museum takes you first. Phillipe has invested in some specially constructed mannequins whose faces have been 3-D matched to photos of Collins, Eisenhower & Bradley.
The result is very impressive. There they are in the uniforms and accessories they wore; Bradley (a great general, but perhaps not the most handsome man in the army!) with the army boots he liked to wear, Eisenhower sitting at Collins’ actual desk, and Collins stood beside him with his trademark goggles on his helmet and tie tucked into his shirt. Behind them on the wall, hang the pictures that were looking down on the three men as they discussed Operation Cobra – the breakout from Normandy.
The next room on the first floor was Collins’ bedroom, but it has now been turned into a gallery of military equipment that Philippe has found over years of collecting, including ammunition boxes, parachute harnesses, uniforms and a display case of US helmets with their regimental, divisional and personal markings.
The last room on this side of the building is occupied by US troops who had to capture this building and then defend it.
Little do they realise 😉 that behind the door to the circular staircase leading back downstairs, lurk some of the soldiers of the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, and the 17th SS-Panzergrenadier Division who had been holding the chateau.
The museum route is back through the rooms to the landing and across to the other side where the 7th Corps Command Centre was located in the chateau’s billiard room. The large billiard/snooker table in the middle of the room (authentic) has maps and telephones spread out across it. Officers around the table are in discussion and around the room are several German soldiers, here for interrogation. The tables by the windows are laden with radio equipment, and again it’s a very accurate depiction of what this room would have looked like in July 1944, with all its original furniture and wall dressings.
The next room is a store room, piled high with the food rations the HQ company would have with them. The variety and make-up of the rations had been carefully thought out. There were five different menus, and a box would have breakfast, lunch, and supper ingredients for ten men.
The last room is a recreation of a temporary billet with camp beds and personal items for headquarters staff.
The chateau is more ‘grand fortified farm’ than ‘elegant renaissance chateau’. It has a high wall around it and a large courtyard, which is ideal for hosting re-enactor events and tour groups.
The other ‘wing’ of the chateau has been renovated to provide chambres d’hôtes (B&B rooms) and gîte (self-catering) accommodation. So you can base yourself here while touring the area.
Future plans also include a life-size statue of the three generals, recreating the famous photo of them by the door of the museum, on the spot where it was taken.
* NB Don’t get confused. There are TWO Châteaux de Franquetot! The other, only 13 kms away near Coigny (50250 Montsenelle), is a rather more glamourous Louis XV style château built between 1735 – 1739. Like its namesake, it hosted US servicemen. In this case from the adjacent Advanced Landing Ground ALG A-14 – Cretteville which, from 4 July to 15 August was the base for 358th Fighter Group (P47 Thunderbolts) then from 17 August to 3 September the 406th Fighter group (P-47 Thunderbolts), and 367th Fighter Group (P-38 Lightnings).
Declaration: I was on a self-driving research trip supported by Normandy Tourism. Museum entry was complementary.
No website (yet) but they do have a Facebook page
D-Day Collins Museum
Châteaux de Franquetot
38 Rue d’Eturville
|Adult||€ 9.00||€ 6.00 (€ 8.00 Guided tour)|
|Child (6 – 16 yrs),||€ 6.00||€ 5.00 (€ 7.00 Guided tour)|
|May – September||9.00am – 6.00pm|
|October – April||10.00am – 5.00pm|