Begun in the 1970s almost by chance by Michel Leloup, the Leloup collection has been built up through hard work over nearly half a century. The volume, diversity and quality of the material displayed in the museum are, to this day, of unequalled richness.
Researches and acquisitions have allowed the preservation of historical pieces found on the battlefields of Normandy : reconnaissance aircraft, flying bombs, tanks, vehicles and cannons, uniforms, posters, rare documents and hundreds of personal objects of soldiers.
The restoration of the armored vehicles on display required thousands of hours of work. Some of these vehicles, developed for the war, are unique and come from manufacturers that don’t exist anymore. Which do illustrate indeed the will of the Leloups to preserve that technical heritage as well as the desire to share History with a large public.
At 15, he had a front-row seat to the Battle of Normandy, watching planes circling in the sky, aerial strafing, witnessing plane crashes and the parachuting of leaflets. He experienced the bombing of l’Aigle and secretly listened to “Radio-Londres”. He also saw wrecks of tanks and military vehicles littering the countryside as early as August 1944. So many events that marked him forever.
At the end of the war, the reconstruction of Normandy created enormous needs for wood. In 1947, Michel had the idea of starting a wood storage site on the family farm and setting up a small sawmill. He then did the best he could with the means at his disposal : a German Panzer IV tank generator was used to drive the saw and a Canadian Chevrolet F60 was used to transport wood. Two years later, he began using a German half-track Sd Kfz 251, bought from the Lefebvre establishments in Argentan, specialized in the trading of military equipment. The latter was propelled by a wood gasification power unit until its complete wear. It was scrapped in the early 60s.
In the early 70s, Michel Leloup discovered in a sawmill in Normandy, a wreck of a Sd Kfz 251. This time, he did not want to use it in his sawmill, but rather restore it. It was the beginning of a collection and a passion that never left him.
In 1987, Michel exhibited part of his collection in premises he acquired in Falaise : the Musée Août 44 – bataille de la poche de Falaise was born. There was nothing at that time that related the encirclement of the German 7th Army and the end of the Battle of Normandy.
However, the Falaise museum only reached a limited audience. Michel and Nicolas, his son, whose ambition was to create a place of memory and safeguarding accessible to a large public, embarked on a major project in the heart of memory tourism. Unfortunately, Michel died in 2011 and never saw the completion of his project : Overlord Museum – Omaha Beach.