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La Coupole
World War 2 German rocket base near St-Omer

La Coupole concrete dome
The concrete dome looms out of the forest. The underground works are tunnelled deep in the hillside.
German occupying troops in WW2
See exhibition about life in North France under German occupation 1940-44

"Bomb-proof" concrete dome
You are standing by a quiet rural railway line, looking up at a concrete dome that seems to grow out of the trees on the hillside. It's over half a century old - but you can easily imagine the atmosphere of fear as Russian and Polish prisoners toiled to build this strange stucture, and all the tunnels beneath it.

Slave labour
As you walk into the underground tunnels, you find out its sinister purpose, and why thousands of slave-workers were brought here under the orders of occupying Nazi German troops.

Hitler's terror weapons
Hitler's aim was to create terror weapons to retaliate against Britain and turn the tide of the war. His first rocket launching base - the
Blockhaus north of Saint-Omer - had been crippled by Allied bombing raids.

    
1. Cool, slightly damp concrete tunnels lead into the hillside. 2. How the bomb-proof dome might have looked inside, if it had been finished. 3. Today a display of rockets in part of the unfinished dome.

Bomb-proof dome
La Coupole
- a "bomb-proof" dome - was the Nazis' second attempt. It was built deep underground to be impregnable against bombs from the air.

By 1944 German scientists experimenting at a secret site in Poland had developed first the V1 "flying bomb" and then the V2 rocket.

French Resistance car
Display about the French Resistance

Fired across the Channel
Inside the Dome, you'll see where they would have assembled the V2 rockets, added fuel, and armed them with explosive warheads. They would have been launched over the Channel to land on London and the towns of Kent. In 1944 there was little defence against the V1 which had wings and flew at cloud height like a pilot-less jet plane.

Race against time
The Nazis knew there was then no defence against the V2, which fell down from space without warning. It could win them the war - but could they finish the launching base in time?

You will see that they failed, and had to abandon the rocket base unfinished. In July 1944, Allied troops advanced eastwards from the Normandy landings past St-Omer: the base never fired a single V2 rocket.

Huge crazy engineering work
You walk into the hillside through cool concrete tunnels, eventually emerging into the lofty dome - still unfinished, with lots of chalk rock left forever half-excavated. You'll marvel at the crazy misdirection of engineering skills that went into this project.

Occupation and resistance
You see audio-visual displays and video presentations telling the story of the life of French people in the 1940's, when Northern France was in German hands.

Your tour lasts 2 hours. You find out about:

  • the story of Hitler's secret rocket weapons
  • the daily life of French people in the War: the Resistance and liberation.

Conquest of Space
You learn the amazing "twist in the tale" - how captured German rocket scientists were taken to both Russia and the USA - to work on the arms race and the space race, eventually landing man on the moon.

US rocket launch
US space programme and missile research depended initially on the expertise of captured German scientists

Audio-visual presentations; good facilities for groups

Enthralling,a real piece of living history of the events of the second world war not to be missed. You can really feel the atmosphere of the place how it would have been like. The Enigma exhibition was really interesting. Very helpful staff.
Reviewers -
Carol & Paul Mitchell, Northampton
..Well worth visiting, we spent longer there than planned; easy to visit from Channel ports...
Reviewer -
James - London
Why not send in YOUR review of somewhere you have visited?
Location: La Coupole, Helfaut, BP284, 62504 Saint Omer
Directions: from A26 Calais-Paris autoroute: take exit 3, follow signs to "Wizernes" on D211; turn onto D928 in centre of Wizernes.
From St-Omer: take D928 to Wizernes.
Rough guide to opening: Every day all year, except CLOSED 25 Dec and 1st 2 weeks in Jan. Hours: normally 09.30-18.30; 10.00-19.00 at weekends and public holidays;
Information/ reservations:
Tel: 00 33 3 21-93-07-07 - Fax: 00 33 3 21-39-21-45
Email: lacoupole@lacoupole.com

Weblink:
http://www.lacoupole-france.com/

Other places to visit around Saint-Omer

Background Information:
Second World War in north France
V1 and V2 rockets - Hitler's secret weapons
Operation "Fortitude South" and the Atlantic Wall

Revived railway - Aa Valley Rly station nearby
Audomarois - marshlands
Le Blockhaus d'Eperlecques - original bunker for manufacture of V2 rockets
Boat trips - local; along river Aa
La Maison du Papier - museum of paper-making
Saint Omer Brewery

clipboard helper
QUICK TOUR round St-Omer district

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www.theotherside.co.uk © Copyright 1999-2006 Invicta Media. Last updated 27th September 2006/ 17th February 2002; 24th August 1999