Saint-Nazaire Submarine Base

Saint-Nazaire, France

The submarine base of Saint-Nazaire is a large fortified U-boat pen built by Germany during the Second World War. Before the war Saint-Nazaire was one of the largest harbours of the Atlantic coast of France. During the Battle of France, the German Army arrived in Saint-Nazaire, in June 1940. The harbour was immediately used for submarine operations.

In December, a mission of the Organisation Todt inspected the harbour to study the possibilities to build a submarine pen invulnerable to air bombing from England. Work soon began under the supervision of engineer Probst.

The selected space was that of the docks and buildings of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, which were razed. Building began in February 1941. The adjacent dry-dock in Saint-Nazaire dock was the target of Operation Chariot, a British commando raid in 1942, the U-boat pens were a secondary target of the raid. The attack successfully disabled the dry-dock by ramming an explosive-filled destroyer into it, and by demolition teams wrecking the pumps and electrical system.

The base was equipped with 62 workshops, 97 magazines, 150 offices, 92 dormitories for submarine crews, 20 pumps, 4 kitchens, 2 bakeries, two electrical plants, one restaurant and a hospital. On the roof is one completed and one uncompleted M19 Maschinengranatwerfer automatic 5 cm mortar bunker.

The zone of the base was abandoned for a long time. In 1994, the municipality of Saint-Nazaire decided to re-urbanise the base, in a project name Ville-Port. The base now features several museums, including a mockup of a transatlantic liner called the Escal'Atlantic, and the French submarine Espadon.



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Founded: 1941
Category: Museums in France

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User Reviews

Alan Moore (8 months ago)
I was annoyed as we didn’t have time to go in and see inside. The car park we stayed in overnight felt safe and will probably revisit sometime.
Matt Belcher (8 months ago)
As a Second World War nerd, this place had to be visited when I was in the area. What a place, it's easy to build these kind of structures with the Organisation Todt slave labour. Still, it's a brilliant lump of concrete. Free to visit, plus you can go on the roof. I also recommend doing the first French submarine visit which is in the dry dock over the harbour. If you have ever been to the Submarine in Portsmouth, then it's like that.
Jamie Smith (9 months ago)
What a sight to behold ! I'm sure the residents of SN will have wished to erase the base from their memory but it's awe inspiring what they have started to do with it , turning it into a museum
Richard Campbell (9 months ago)
Fascinating but few tour opportunities
Jason Cook (11 months ago)
Having an interest in all things WW2, made my visit to Saint-Nazaire all the more special. You can walk through the whole of the structure and also on the roof, which makes for some excellent photos. There are other attractions there too, one being the submarine the Espadon. There's also an interactive museum. A very enjoyable day out.
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