V weapon sites France

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outkast

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our group took a trip to france to look at a couple of V weapon sites at the weekend, first up was La coupole.

La Coupole (English: The Dome), codenamed Bauvorhaben 21 (Building Project 21), Schotterwerk Nordwest (Northwest Gravel Works) or Wizernes,[4] is a Second World War bunker complex built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base for V-2 rockets against London and southern England. It is situated in the commune of Helfaut in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Saint-Omer.

Constructed in the side of a disused chalk quarry, the complex comprised an immense concrete dome, to which its modern name refers, above a network of tunnels that were to house the launch facilities and crew quarters. The facility was intended to store a large stockpile of V-2s, warheads and fuel and to be able to launch missiles against London and southern England at a high daily rate. Heavy secret weapons sites like Wizernes, Watten, Mimoyecques and the Wasserwerks of St Pol, Desvres, were collectively called by the Organization Todt the "Special Constructions", Sonderbauten in German.[5]

However, due to repeated heavy bombing by Allied forces carried out as part of Operation Crossbow, the Germans were unable to complete the construction works and the complex never entered service. It was captured by the Canadian Army in September 1944 and was subsequently abandoned. The complex remained derelict and abandoned until the mid-1990s. In 1997 it opened to the public for the first time after being redeveloped into a museum. The tunnels and the main exhibition area under the dome tell the story of the German occupation of France during World War II, the V-weapons and the history of space exploration.

Fortunately one of our group had negotiated with the operaters of the site for us to take a giuded tour of the parts of the tunnel complex not normally open to the public, only around a third of the complex is used for the musem, the rest being off limits due to health and safety.

a plan of the complex
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The part this report will deal with is roughly from the dome in the centre of the plan downwards.

the main concrete lined tunnel, the first thing that hits you went entering this is just how huge it is, you could quite comfortbly drive a double decker bus down here
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the main tunnel headed straight for quite some way before turning right into another long tunnel
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this then lead us to a junction where the tunnel slit in into two smaller unlined sections
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the left hand tunnel lead through to a large open chamber, at the end of wich would have been the ventilation shaft, wich was now filled with spoil after being blown up by the allies.
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all along the main tunnel were unlined tunnels dug into the chalk, these ran quite some distance, although most were very unstable as the beams holding the roofs up had collapsed, we were only allowed to enter so far into a few of these tunnels.
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most of these tunnels were very unstable, some having had the roof collapse already
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generator wich powered the complex
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original equipment used for minig the tunnels
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outside on top of the dome, air shaft in background
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inside the airshaft, wich had been filled, even this was a huge lump of concrete
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The second site we visited was the bunker at watten.
The Blockhaus d'Éperlecques (English: Bunker of Éperlecques, also known as Watten bunker[5]) is a Second World War bunker or blockhaus, now part of a museum, near Saint-Omer in the Pas-de-Calais region of northeastern France. The bunker, built by Nazi Germany under the codename Kraftwerk Nord West (KNW) (Powerplant Northwest)[6] between March 1943 and July 1944, was originally intended to be a launching facility for the V-2 (A-4) ballistic missile. It was designed to accommodate over 100 missiles at a time and to launch up to 36 daily. The facility would have incorporated a liquid oxygen factory and a bomb-proof train station to allow missiles and supplies to be delivered from production facilities in Germany. It was constructed with the aid of 2000 slave workers[7] recruited from concentration and prisoner of war camps, as well as forcibly conscripted Frenchmen.

The bunker was never completed due to repeated bombing by the British and United States air forces as part of operations against the German rockets. The attacks caused substantial damage and rendered it unusable for its original purpose. Part of the bunker was subsequently completed for use as a liquid oxygen factory. It was captured by Allied forces at the start of September 1944, though its true purpose was not discovered by the Allies until after the war. V-2s were instead launched from mobile batteries which were far less vulnerable to aerial attacks. Today, the bunker is preserved as part of a privately owned museum that presents the history of the site and the German V-weapons programme. It has been protected by the French state as a Monument Historique since 1986.[7]

The area around the bunker is also a musem, with many artifacts from the war, you get to the bunker by following a woodland trail, you turn a corner and are imediately struck by the sheer size of it

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this being an above ground bunker it had sustained much more bomb damage than the Le coupole, the thickness of the concrete was unbelieveable, the lower part of the bunker was flooded but the ground level part was open.
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at the back of the bunker were the rail sidings, these had not faired well from allied bombing, tall boy bombs had been dropped all over the site, the worst damaged being the the rear of the site.
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we mesured this door, it was 2.5 metres thick
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inside the bunker some parts were open up to the roof, this was so V2 rockets could be moved around in the upright position.
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some of the bomb damaged from tall boy bombs
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Our next target was a battery plotting room near Calais.

The Gun battery stood ready at Sangatte, just west of Calais in 1942. The battery was named after Ernst Lindemann, who the year before had perished, as captain of the battleship Bismarck.


The three 406 mm. “adolf guns” were retrieved from Battery Schleswig Holstein in Poland. These guns had, using a shell of 1300 lb., A range of 35 miles. Standard grenade weighed 2250 lb. and here the range was 26 miles. The 65 feet long gunbarrel had a shelf life between 250 and 300 shots. The guns were mounted in separate pillboxes which was cast in reinforced concrete, up to four meters thick.


The guns shelled regularly south-east England and in the two years the guns were operational, over 2200 shots was send to England.


Battery Lindemann had the most powerful guns along the Atlantic wall and was therefore obviously a popular target for the Allies during their bombingraids and during the artillery duel on the English Channel. The allied bombs had no effect on the large bunkers, but 4th September 1944 on artillery shell from an English railway gun, hit right into one of the guns. 21 September 1944 the area was bombed by 400 to 500 Allied bombers and another one of guns were destroyed. Final 26th September the last gun were stopped when Canadian soldiers captured the battery.


In the 80s the area was used for backfilling of soil, under the construction of the tunnel under the English channel. The three massive gun bunkers were partly buried, but it is still possible to see traces of the battery and bomb craters after the many allied grenades and bombs

Having visited plotting rooms in dover, we were interested to see what a german one looked like, the plotting room itself was a below ground two story affair, very dangerous to enter as it seems the allies may have tried to blow it up after capture, all the supporting walls inside had been destroyed, proberly with the hope that it would collapse, fortunately for us it did not, but the attempted demolision had left holes in the floor wich werea real concern, as the bottom level was full of water.

The entrance to the plotting room
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WW2 shell casings littered the area
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there were four rooms on each level
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one had a mureul of a gallion painted on the wall
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one of the dodgy holes in the floor
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after that we waddered down to the coast and looked at a few of the many bunkers and emplacemnet along this stretch of coast line,

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out of time we dashed back to catch our train, I have put the rest of the pics I took, plus the coastal bits in here

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v134/drsugfit/my explores/my explores 2/

Thanks for looking.

Dave
 

godzilla73

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Top stuff - some good Atlantikwall action in those last couple of pictures. I hope to do some of this in the near future, especially La Coupole and the stuff in the woods at Wissant.
thanks for sharing.
Godzy
 

skeleton key

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Thats a cracking reports Dave ;)Looks like all the planing paid off just right.

Cheers bud SK :)
 

outkast

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Thanks Chaps, we are planning a return trip to do the V3 site and to have a real good look along the coast here, you cant move in this bit of France without falling over a bunker, or several.:)

The location of the plotting room is amongst the rough patch of ground just above the lake in the google earth shot below, even today the bomb craters around the bunker can clearly be made out, the allies obviously considered this a prime target
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unfortunately the lake had covered the gun instalations themselves.
 
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night crawler

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Awesome report that, gob smacked by the siding photo in the second set the place is huge as you can see by the small people on the right. Great shame you could not see the guns in the third set.
 

sennelager66

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Simply a top notch report. That makes me want to get up and get out there. Next year for me though.

Was there any evidence of a memorial to the slave labour used to build there sites.

Some of the chalk had structurally failed along that looks like fault likes. So interesting and thanks for the report.
 

Lost_In_Normandy

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This was a fantastic report with excellent dialogue, really enjoyed the pictures!

there was a documentry on recently about the first site, but your pictures helped with the perspective!

I am suitably jealous!! :mrgreen:
 

outkast

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Thanks chaps, with four people sharing a car it dont work out too expensive, both sites only charge 9 euros entry fee, and of course you have all the free to visit stuff around calais.

its definately worth doing, the pics dont really convey the sheer scale of these places.
 

outkast

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Simply a top notch report. That makes me want to get up and get out there. Next year for me though.

Was there any evidence of a memorial to the slave labour used to build there sites.

Some of the chalk had structurally failed along that looks like fault likes. So interesting and thanks for the report.

Yes there was, le coupole had a whole section of the museum deicated to the story of the slave labourers, a very moving peice.

The tallboys did have some effect on the tunnels below, infact there was a underground hospital nearby wich we went to check out, it had been sealed but our giude had already told us that most of that had collapsed anyway.
 

FFerret

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That was another great day out.

I felt your frustration as we went down the toll road to the first site with nothing to see out the window.

It was a pleasure to see your see your face, as we visited each site.... especially as the ones you fall into next to the coast.

Next time we will take you to soom of the cross channel stuff..............and then its on to Normandy (er you better book at least 2 weeks off).

I finally roled in at 11 pm.............I love 18 hour days :):)
 

Foxylady

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Great report, they old Germans sure did concrete to excess.
Amazing stuff. Seeing the damage done to the massive concrete walls of the Blockhaus d'Éperlecques makes you realise how ineffective our pillboxes actually were if under serious attack! :eek:

Brilliant report, Outkast. Looking forward to seeing your V3 site visit. :)
 

outkast

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Amazing stuff. Seeing the damage done to the massive concrete walls of the Blockhaus d'Éperlecques makes you realise how ineffective our pillboxes actually were if under serious attack! :eek:

Brilliant report, Outkast. Looking forward to seeing your V3 site visit. :)

you can say that again LOL

I remember thinking how the logistic and supply operation to biuld thses things must have been enormous, there was so much steel and concrete put into these places its mind blowing.
 

outkast

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That was another great day out.

I felt your frustration as we went down the toll road to the first site with nothing to see out the window.

It was a pleasure to see your see your face, as we visited each site.... especially as the ones you fall into next to the coast.

Next time we will take you to soom of the cross channel stuff..............and then its on to Normandy (er you better book at least 2 weeks off).

I finally roled in at 11 pm.............I love 18 hour days :):)

Think I got home about the same time, I was knacked and just had time to check my pics and hit the shower before crashing out, was a top day out though, thnaks for driving us all around.
 

outkast

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you can say that again LOL

I remember thinking how the logistic and supply operation to biuld thses things must have been enormous, there was so much steel and concrete put into these places its mind blowing.

The V3 site is now closed until next year, but we are all gagging to get back out there, so I am sure I will have some more reporting to do before then.
 

krela

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Amazing stuff. Seeing the damage done to the massive concrete walls of the Blockhaus d'Éperlecques makes you realise how ineffective our pillboxes actually were if under serious attack!

That's sort of true but you also have to put it into context. The initial german landing force would have been mostly infantry as they didn't think we had any real anti-invasion defences, and the whole plan was to repel them before they got chance to build the infrastructure to allow them to bring in the panzers and heavy artillery. The scale of the German invasion would have been completely different to that of the Allied Forces eventual one. Hitler didn't think much of our ground resistance forces at all, which is why he thought air superiority was all he needed.

Also the Germans had 4 years to build the Atlantik Wall, we had 4 months to build ours. ;)
 
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