M4A1 Sherman tanks, M8 & Panhard armoured vehicles
Biville dunes, West Cotentin
Location and info
Dunes de Biville, 50440 Biville
From the small village of Biville head south west on the D118. The nature reserve is signposted from the village but is a long drive down a gravel track to two large parking areas.
There are three US Sherman tanks plus several other armoured vehicles including an M8 Greyhound, the remains of a half-track, and a post-war French Panhard located on an old firing range behind the dunes at Biville on the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula.
Now a nature reserve, this site is a great place for a long walk, and finding the tanks hidden in the dips in the sand is great fun!
Walking south from the southern parking area with the dunes and beach on your right you will come to the first, and most damaged of the three Shermans at the site.
There isn’t much left to see inside this Sherman, but the vehicle itself is fascinating with the remains of its radial engine and gearbox on show. The numerous strike marks and holes in the hull are from armour piercing rounds and there is extensive damage to the turret. You can also find the remains of the tank’s main gun lying in the sand nearby.
Further south of this tank is the most complete of the three Shermans. This Sherman - featuring a 76mm gun - has a serial number of 38799 which reveals it to be an M4A1 built by the Pressed Steel Car Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The turret has been seal shut but you can peer inside via the front gun port.
The most southerly of the Shermans is a M4A1 serial number 38814 and looks as if it simply rolled off its broken tracks and into a dip in the soft sand where it remains today. Still interconnected, the 16ins wide track appears like miniature dragon’s teeth from the ground and can be exposed or completely covered on different days by the wind shifting loose sand in the area.
A vehicle built by the Pressed Steel Car Company of Pittsburgh, this is the one to visit for serious rust enthusiasts with some fantastic levels of weathering on the remaining tracks, VVSS bogeys, and the hull.
The main 76mm gun barrel is drastically shortened and looks to have taken a direct his or been subjected to an internal explosion – but this does allow you a close-up view of the rifling inside the remaining section of the barrel.
Some radial motor parts remain but the engine compartment has been filled like a car boot on a Sunday morning with a mix of junk parts which have been removed from the hull, suspension, and tracks, possibly after live firing exercises had finished.
At the southern end of the dunes, near the German strongpoint of Stp318 Clairefontaine you can find an M8 light armoured car. The M8, nicknamed the ‘Greyhound’, could reach 55mph and had a range of over 300 miles over good terrain. It was equipped with a 37mm gun with telescopic gunsight and usually .30 calibre and .50 calibre machine guns too.
The crew of four consisted of a driver, co-driver, gunner, and commander/radio operator.
Over 8,500 were built between 1943 and 1945, with France employing nearly 700 of them. Several nations are still using them to this day.
The French-built Panhard is a post-war armoured vehicle, and despite standing open to the elements, it's in much better shape than many of the other tanks and half tracks it shares the old firing range site with.
Apart from heavy rusting in places the inside is still relatively complete and you can get the impression that it was an incredibly cramped place to operate from.