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Antique Safes/German and French safes


QUESTION: Wondered if you might help me out.  I am writing a novel on World War II that takes place in Southern France, right before the allied invation in 1944.  
As you probably know it was Nazi infiltrated.  I need to know at a 'German Headquarters' in southern France, what type of safe might they have had for their use?
I want to give some brief detail in a section of the book where they break into a safe to get the German's information that is in it.

Any type of detail on the lock, and how it worked, so I can describe the guy trying to open it, would be helpful.

I would be very happy to cite you as a reference, as I am doing with others.  I have been so grateful at all the people, here in tyhe U.S. and in other countries that have helped with stuff.

Thanks in advance for your help and your time, Anne


If you had asked about late 1800's or early 1900's French or German type safes, I could probably have given you a better answer - but 1944 is going to be kind of a gray area.

While there were a number of European safe manufacturers around this time, in order to come up with a plausible safe, I would need much more information.

In most militaries, (in general) security equipment is provided, so that you have some type of standardization.   HOWEVER, as you are referencing WWII, we have to look at what was happening - as the Germans were advancing, and capturing areas and towns, they were using equipment which (in many cases) was already on site.   While I'm no historian of WWII and/or the occupation of France, it appears that in many cases "German Headquarters" were usually set up in nicer buildings, rather than business type buildings.   This would mean Villas or possibly estates, which were taken over.    If this is the case then chances are (especially if it was an older estate), that the safe may be over 100 years old rather than a newer safe.   This could easily place the date of manufacturer between the late 1700's through the late 1800's.

If the German Headquarters was in a downtown area, then they may have taken over a business type of building with a more current (1930's or 40's) type safe.

Safe companies that might have built safes in Europe during this time include Fichet Safes, Bauche Safes (French), Chubb Safes (English).   Fichet & Bauche actually merged in 1967 to form Fichet-Bauche, and is now a member of the Gunnebo Group.   Alexandre Fichet began producing safes around 1840, and Auguste Nicolas Bauche around 1864.
The Chubb brothers began building safes around 1818, receiving their first patent in 1835.   Chubb safes have been manufactured ever since and shipped all over Europe.   This company also became a member of the Gunnebo Group around 2000.

So, bottom line, it would HELP to know What type of building was being occupied, so that we can try to narrow down the type of safe that might have been expected to have been in a similar building, under these circumstances.

As you can see it could just as easily have been a one hundred year old safe, as a brand new safe.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your answer.  I am doing a follow up and then will be glad to 'rate the expert' once we have finished our dialogue.  
What I am saying in the book is that there was a hotel that overlooked the port area.  This gave them a view of ships coming in, etc.  I say in the book that they took this building over and made it into offices.
You are quite correct in that they took over chateaus and villas, etc, and that is in another part of the book.
So in this case, it is in a hotel that was used as a hotel for its obvious view of the ocean but is now being used as the military offices.  going towards the land part of things, they had an array of bunkers back in there, which is of no consequence to this part of the book.
So in order to answer your question, it was a business building, per we, a hotel.
I will do the rating and also cite you in the book.  I have a list of people and companies like yours that have been invaluable.  I will be sending you a copy of the book for the citation, once I get there.  It will be a little while, but I won't forget.  Thanks again.


I know about writing books - I've been working on my "history of antique safes and safe manufacturers" for 3 years now, and my research is only half finished!

Probably being a French hotel, the safe would have been either a Fichet or a Bauche safe.   I would love to send you a photo of possibly what a similar safe would look like, but I will need an email address as this site isn't really "photo" friendly.

Send me a request to:, and I'll see what I have available.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

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Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

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2009 - 2015 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

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