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

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ben Foale (5 months ago)
Bunker complex which housed the German rocket program. interesting place to visit.
Red H (7 months ago)
A must see for anyone wishing to visit sites from WW1 & WW2. Along with the Blockhaus and the Grand Mine it is a reminder of the huge loss of life. Very poignant.
Bartek Dyras (7 months ago)
One of the best museum I have visited! Great multimedia and real size rockets. Definitely recommended!
Theseas (9 months ago)
An amazing place with historical significance. I found it lovely how everything was in french and English. Beware that the temperature inside is very low, don’t go wearing a t-shirt like I did, you’re gonna freeze.
Chris P (12 months ago)
Very friendly and helpful staff. The planetarium is well worth visiting with headphones provided for some of the films with english translation. They are also provided for the main part of the museum, La Coupole, which is very interesting. Nice cafeteria and gift shop. Recommended!
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