La Coupole

Helfaut, France

La Coupole, originally codenamed Bauvorhaben 21 (Building Project 21) or Schotterwerk Nordwest (Northwest Gravel Works), is a Second World War bunker complex. It was built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base for V-2 rockets directed against London and southern England, and is the earliest known precursor to modern underground missile silos still in existence.

Constructed in the side of a disused chalk quarry, the most prominent feature of the complex is an immense concrete dome, to which its modern name refers. It was built above a network of tunnels housing storage areas, launch facilities and crew quarters. The facility was designed to store a large stockpile of V-2s, warheads and fuel and was intended to launch V-2s on an industrial scale. Dozens of missiles a day were to be fuelled, prepared and launched in rapid sequence against London and southern England.

Following repeated heavy bombing by Allied forces during Operation Crossbow, the Germans were unable to complete the construction works and the complex never entered service. It was captured by the Allies in September 1944, partially demolished on the orders of Winston Churchill to prevent its reuse as a military base, and then abandoned. It remained derelict until the mid-1990s. In 1997 it opened to the public for the first time, as a museum. Exhibits in the tunnels and 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.



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D210 5001F, Helfaut, France
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Founded: 1943
Category: Museums in France


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Randal Green (12 months ago)
50 percent a very human telling of the events of WW2, 50% the contextualisation of the German rocket development during WW2 within the space race and the role the site played as a V2 launch sight. Excellent value for money I thought. Didn't have time to visit the planetarium, though I am sure it is also good.
James Crankshaw (12 months ago)
This is amazing place to visit. The WW2 buildings are both amazing (size, scale, speed of construction) and horrifying in equals measures. The museums are good and certainly tell the history well. So why not 5 stars? Well the planetarium is good and the 3D affects amazing. However the movie we saw was advertised as being in English as well as French. They give you headphone for the English which is fine. What is not fine is that only 15 minutes of the 45 minutes is in English and the rest is in French. If they had told me that upfront I would have saved my money (and I did ask). In summary the WW2 building and muse is amazing. The planetarium is also amazing….as long as you can speak French.
George Drăgulin (13 months ago)
Good place to visit, I initially gone for the planetarium, but i was told it's too loud for baby's, so i ended up visiting the museum. Turned out pretty good .
Chris Meadows (13 months ago)
Excellent historical museum. Shows the development of the German WW2 rocket programme in a massive concrete bunker. Fascinating place would visit again. The audio visual tour was fantastic and good value for money
Ade Rowswell (14 months ago)
Very interesting place with great content. The only downside is that the automated audio guide that is triggered by proximity to a subject often makes the visit confusing, as the triggers are often too close together and you must stand still to listen (if you wander, it will start another recording).
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