Mimoyecques Fortress

Landrethun-le-Nord, France

The Fortress of Mimoyecques is the modern name for a Second World War underground military complex built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944. It was intended to house a battery of V-3 cannons aimed at London, 165 kilometres away. Originally codenamed Wiese ('Meadow') or Bauvorhaben 711 ('Construction Project 711'), it is located in the commune of Landrethun-le-Nord in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, near the hamlet of Mimoyecques. It was constructed by a mostly German workforce recruited from major engineering and mining concerns, augmented by prisoner-of-war slave labour.

The complex consists of a network of tunnels dug under a chalk hill, linked to five inclined shafts in which 25 V-3 guns would have been installed, all targeted on London. The guns would have been able to fire ten dart-like explosive projectiles a minute – 600 rounds every hour – into the British capital. The Allies knew nothing about the V-3 but identified the site as a possible launching base for V-2 ballistic missiles, based on reconnaissance photographs and fragmentary intelligence from French sources.

Mimoyecques was targeted for intensive bombardment by the Allied air forces from late 1943 onwards. Construction work was seriously disrupted, forcing the Germans to abandon work on part of the complex. The rest was partly destroyed on 6 July 1944 by No. 617 Squadron RAF, who used ground-penetrating 5,400-kilogram (12,000 lb) 'Tallboy' earthquake bombs to collapse tunnels and shafts, entombing hundreds of slave workers underground.

The Germans halted construction work at Mimoyecques as the Allies advanced up the coast following the Normandy landings. It fell to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division on 5 September 1944 without resistance, a few days after the Germans withdrew from the area.

The complex was partly demolished just after the war on Churchill's direct orders (and to the great annoyance of the French, who were not consulted), as it was still seen as a threat to the United Kingdom. It was later reopened by private owners, first in 1969 to serve as a mushroom farm and subsequently as a museum in 1984. A nature conservation organisation acquired the Fortress of Mimoyecques in 2010, and La Coupole (a museum near Saint-Omer housing a former V-2 rocket base) took over its management. It continues to be open to the public as a vast underground museum complex.



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Founded: 1943
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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User Reviews

Bartek Dyras (3 years ago)
Crazy idea, but I wonder how much time they were short and what the consequences would be if they would have succeeded. Great museum!
Mk B (3 years ago)
Extremely interesting and fun to visit. The staff were excellent, and the tour was incredibly informative along with all the information posted throughout the fortress. Make sure to bring a jacket as the temperature drops a number of degrees once you go inside!
Andrei Lavrenov (3 years ago)
You cannot truly understand the immense scale until you visit. While not all that interesting by itself, the context of it's use and how it was built makes it worth a visit.
Davy Goris (4 years ago)
Very interesting WW2 fortress with friendly welcome and lots to see. About 5m V3 cannon is still visible, plus hundreds of meters of underground tunnels available for the visitors. Free parking available. Some parts are dedicated to special victims of the war, and there is lots of information about the planes of that era and the tallboy bombs.
Chris F (5 years ago)
My 2nd visit. Much improved since my last one. Both times make one consider what might have happened. In the rear tunnel some stories of the brave Resistance who lost their lives. Another example of fine work by Barnes Wallis and 617 Squadron.
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