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

Richard Drake (6 months ago)
Made a slight detour to La Coupole on way to Normandy and so glad we did. Fantastic museum, well laid out with the audio tour gripping my 2 kids. Highly recommend.
Johan Heremans (8 months ago)
Very nice museum about the V1 and V2 and rockettechnology. Worth a visit but wear a coat in the tunnel because it's chilly there.
Rachel Stein (8 months ago)
Very educational visit & helpful staff who were able to answer our questions in English. We visited during the heatwave & welcomed the fridge like tunnels. Everything was easily accessed with a buggy plus picnic tables in the overflow car park gave us somewhere to rest whilst we waited for the planetarium show.
Davy Goris (9 months ago)
The museum La Coupole is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in the second world war. It gives a view on the impressive amount of work that the Germans put in this place. It shows full-size V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets. There are some videos about the war and an exposition. There is also a planetarium which is a separate tour. A large free parking offers also picknick spots.
Phil Owen (2 years ago)
A very interesting place. Give yourself a good couple of hours to visit (more if you plan to visit the planetarium). The audio guide is essential if you're not fluent in French. Adequate car parking even for a 7.5m motorhome.
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