This is one of the “Sonderbauten” which was planned to be built by organisation Todt between 1943 and 1944 in France. The underground complex was ment to be used for storing and launching large quantities of V2 (A4) rockets. A 5 metres thick concrete dome with a diameter of 71 metres had to protect the enormous rocket launching station against air attacks.
|Building equipment like the laberours can return any minute|
|One of the tunnels of a system of at least 7 kilometres|
Visit La Coupole V2 Museum
The last thing you’d expect to find here in this remote area near Helfaut, France is this massive structure. It almost feels like driving up to a U.F.O. when you see the big round shape appear and while getting closer to the structure we have difficulty estimating it’s size. The only thing to base a guess on is the small bunker standing next to the dome, but that turns out not to be that small at all.
Starting at the parking lot you walk up to a modern visitor centre where you have to pay admission and get a headphone to guide you in four languages. From the ceiling hangs the manned V1 (the man is a doll) or Fiesler Fi 104 Re4. Then you leave the visitor centre and you can walk up to the entrance of La Coupole. At least 7 kilometres of tunnel system was dug here mainly by forced labourers. There is an impressive exhibition about this, illustrated by several multimedia installations. Only part of this large complex of tunnels is open to the public. You can take the elevator to the dome above.
For those who like modern exhibitions with lots of media like video, lights, etc, this part is really nice. But if you expect to find more about the history of this structure you will be pretty disapointed. The exhibit is mainly about the Second World War in France in general and near the end more specific about the development of the rocket and later even the space age. There are some nice scaled models of other Organisation Todt projects (Sonderbauten), but the museum doesn’t seem to have the main focus on this specific subject or the structure itself. We found this somewhat dissapointing, although the big concrete dome hanging visible over our heads and took some of that disapointment away.
It’s probably because the building was never actually used by the Germans and left abandoned in 1944.
You can take a walk around the dome. It starts from the parking lot near the entrance on the right. The path climbs up the hill towards the dome. Sometimes you get real close to the concrete, but unfortunately because of the thick foilage between the path and the dome, there isn’t a lot to see. Then you reach a side of the bunker where modern gates have been made and looks like a storage area. Again we were disapointed when we got there. Deciding not to leave without at least one decent picture we took matters in our own hand and climbed past the fence through the foilage to the roof. We found the ‘small’ bunker which we could photograph from the back (it’s not that small) and got a view on the top of the dome.