How about an authentic, combat-deployed, Normandy-captured 88? Yep, the 8.8 CM Flak 36, lovingly and freshly restored by the now defunct Normandy Tank Museum, whose former displays — all of them, apparently — are hitting the auction block next month.
The good news: this is probably the best 88 in the world. The bad news? While it’s offered at no reserve, they expect it to go for €70,000-130,000. There are also a number of tanks and armored, amphibious and soft-skinned vehicles representative of the armies that met in Normandy in 1944, as well as small lots with mannequins and artifacts.
The catalog has an excellent précis of this individual artillery piece’s history:
This fine example of a German “Flak 88” was assembled in 1942 by the Bischof-Werke in Sud Recklinghausen using components supplied by a multitude of manufacturers in both Germany and her Occupied Countries.
Here is just a small list of the many diverse companies who sent their output to Recklinghausen for incorporation into this deadly cannon:
- Gunsight optics by Steinheil Sohn of Munich;
- Electrictal system by Merten Gebruder of Gummersbach;
- Gun breech and heavy castings by Schoeller-Blecknaan of Niederdonau and Maschinenfabrik Andritz of Graz, Austria;
- Gun barrel and collar by Skodawerke in Dubinca, Slovakia;
- Electro-mechanical instruments by Siemens Schuckert of Budapest;
- Cable drum holders by Biederman & Czarnikow of Berlin;
- Cable drum reels by Franz Kuhlman of Wilhelmshaven;
- Major steel castings by Ruhrstahl AG of Witten-Annen;
- Bogie winches by VDM Luftfahrtwerke AG of Metz;
- Winch gearboxes by Gasparry & Co of Leipzig;
- Air brakes and fittings by Knorr Bremse, etc.
And of its provenance:
Origin and condition
This weapon has a true Battle of Normandy provenance. It was painted in the standard “Dunkel Gelb” or dark and finish [sic] and supplied in 1942 to a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft division where it found its way to Normandy in early 1943. By June 44, it was positioned in defense of a German Command Center located in an occupied chateau near to Cherbourg.When the Cherbourg pensinsula was over-run by the Allies in July/August, our weapon was captured intact by the Americans who, deciding it might be of some use, painted it olive drab green and presumably had some intention of using it.
As the Liberation of Europe continued, this 88 was left behind and was eventually destined to become a hard target on a firing range. To this end, it was daubed with great splashes of bright orange paint but, thankfully, was rescued after the war by the French Army who repainted it in their own color and who most probably used it for training and educational purposes. After all, it was a very advanced weapon for its day and possessed many innovative technical features.
Finally, our weapon left French military service and passed through the hands of scrap dealers until nally being shut away in a huge barn by an eccentric collector – it has to be remembered that back in the 1970’s there was not a great deal of interest in German WW2 hardware.
And so it languished, becoming covered in grime and dirt until 2014 – all the time the multiple layers of paint ©aking and peeling and ending up a bizarre variegated hue. The Normandy Tank Museum rescued the weapon and placed it in the hands of their highly experienced German restoration expert who, over a period of 8 months, brought the sad relic back to the amazing condition one sees today.
Missing or badly damaged parts have been replaced with locally sourced original replacements – an example of which was a set of the 3 part “Trilex” wheel rims and locking ring which our restorer found amidst a load of farmer’s scrap dumped in a forest when walking his dog.
The 4 brand new wheels and cartridge cases came from the Finnish Army who used them as practice rounds up till the 1980’s. They are obviously empty but, interestingly, are dated June 1944. The fuse nosecones are 3 anti-aircraft and one anti-tank. So a weapon with true Normandy provenance and a major rarity these days as many of the surviving and displayed “88’s” are of Spanish origin. This cannon is one of true German manufacture- a fact which adds significantly to its value.
The 88 was a revolutionary gun and its carriage, in particular, was copied not only by larger German AA guns used for homeland defense against the Allied bomber offensive (in 10.5 and 12.8 cm flavors), but also by American and Soviet AA gun designers.