The submarine base
During the Second World War, the port of Saint-Nazaire was strategically important.
In January 1941, the German occupiers began constructing the submarine base and a series of bunkers along the coast and at the mouth of the estuary. By December 1942 this enormous site, which housed two U-boat fleets engaged in the battle of the Atlantic, was fitted out as an arsenal. It contained 62 torpedo workshops, engineering machinery... and four kitchens, a service block and a dental surgery… Several thousand workmen were requisitioned for the construction of this immense edifice, which had a surface area of 39,000 m2 requiring 480,000 m2 of concrete.
The German submarine base of Saint-Nazaire was a major objective for Allied bombers. In fact the town and its inhabitants were the main victims of the fifty bombing raids which caused 479 deaths. Realising the impossibility of neutralising the submarine base, in 1943 the Allies decided to make the town uninhabitable and render operation of the port difficult with high altitude bombing. The worst raid was on the 28th of February 1943 when almost half the town was destroyed.
By 1944, the whole of France had been liberated, with the exception of pockets of German resistance around the submarine bases. Between September 1944 and May 1945 the Saint-Nazaire area was surrounded by American Allied forces and French Resistance units. The centre of this Fortress Saint-Nazaire was the submarine base. When Saint-Nazaire was liberated in 1945, the French navy took over the base, using it for refitting and repairing warships and commercial vessels until 1948. It was then used by companies dealing in phosphates and soya cake and by the Saint-Nazaire shipbuilders for the construction of 8 minesweepers for the French Navy (1953-55). Today, the submarine base is at the heart of the Ville-Port project.
Lo-call number for information and bookings for visits:
0810 888 444 (charged at local rate)