It was the last German base in France to surrender in World War II

The Saint-Nazaire submarine base, one of the last bastions of nazi Germany

On May 7, 1945, the commander of the German Armed Forces, General Alfred Jodl, signed his surrender in Reims (France).

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The liberation of France had begun on June 6, 1944 with the Normandy Landings. The city of Paris was liberated on August 25. In March 1945, the Germans had been practically expelled from France, thanks to the advance of the Allied forces.

The Saint-Nazaire submarine base in April 1942 (Photo: Bundesarchiv).

However, there remained some pockets of resistance, the so-called Atlantic Pockets, formed by German bastions that the allies preferred to isolate since their conquest would have meant many casualties. Among these bastions were five submarine bases, including Saint-Nazaire, which was the last to surrender on May 11, 1945. That day France was completely liberated.

The entrance to the dock of the Saint-Nazaire submarine base (Photo: Demeester).

The Germans began construction of the Saint-Nazaire submarine base in February 1941. The base, located in the town of Saint-Nazaire (in the current department of Loire-Atlantique, in the west of France) was made up of a total of 14 cells to house submarines. The largest cells (1 to 8) measured 92 meters long and 11 meters wide.

One of the cells of the Saint-Nazaire submarine base (Photo: Rama).

This base was built with thick reinforced concrete walls, in order to protect the submarines from Allied bombing. A total of 460,000 cubic meters of concrete were poured during its construction. The huge base also included a residential area for the troops.

The roof of this submarine base (Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra).

This base was so solidly built that Allied bombing failed to reduce it to rubble. The most audacious Allied attack against Saint-Nazaire was Operation Chariot, which was carried out on March 28, 1942, but not with bombers, but with a force of the British Royal Navy led by < strong>the destroyer HMS Campbeltown and 18 smaller vessels, mainly torpedo boats.

The monument to those who fell in Operation Chariot in the port of Saint-Nazaire (Photo: Vernon39).

That British flotilla transported a commando force to Saint-Nazaire whose mission was to disable the enormous dry dock that its port had, and which allowed the Germans to repair their battleships. The mission was successful, but of the 612 men who participated in it, 168 fell in combat and 215 were taken prisoner. A plaque commemorates the men who fell in that mission in the port of Saint-Nazaire.

The submarine "Espadon" (S637), preserved at the Saint-Nazaire submarine base (Photo: Rama).

After the Second World War, this base was used by the French National Navy, until its abandonment in 1994. Today it houses a museum and other services. Since 1987, this base has housed the Narval-class submarine "Espadon" (S637), a museum ship launched in 1958 and operated by the French National Navy between 1960 and 1986. Today it is the only submarine preserved as a museum ship in France.

Here you can see a video from Normandy Bunkers that shows this base with more detail:


Main photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

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