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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Address

D210 5001F, Helfaut, France
See all sites in Helfaut

Details

Founded: 1943
Category: Museums in France

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Geert Lambrechts (4 months ago)
A museum I recommend. Reasons: 3 distinctive parts: 1). La Coupole: who/what/where/why - 2). Peenemunde (for those who have not visited the site in Germany you receive a nice recap - 3). The NASA era after the war.
Thomas B (5 months ago)
One of the larger nazi bunkers in the world. It was constructed in only 10 months, but never became operational. After the allied forces destroyed most of it, some of it has been preserved and turned into this museum dedicated to the development of the V2 bomb. Interesting to visit for those who like rocket science and space and who want to learn more about the history of it.
Motorhomingmadness (5 months ago)
Fantastic visit, great value at 10.50 euros each. Incredible museum and display. Thank you to the multi lingual staff.
Derek Crabtree (9 months ago)
Wonderful memorial and museum. V1 and V2 missiles on display as well as footage from the occupation. Thoughtfully laid out and hugely interesting. Shocked at how war criminals were pardoned after the conflict and set to work in American and Russian space programs. Didn't have time (ferry to catch) to do the planetarium so can't comment on that but it did look cool.
Jimmy Lee (11 months ago)
Wow awesome find on the way to Lille. So much history and not for the feint hearted . Our kids who are eight years old liked the rockets didn’t understand the war history. Plenty of footage that runs for 20+ minutes all around the bunker - dozen or so videos is my guess. We had to miss so much history cause they were bored. Graphic photos and footage but the cafe at the end helped. Didn’t see the 3D cinema but looked great. We purchased the family pass plus 1 child. 28EU and well worth it.
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