In the peaceful French countryside of northern France, there are many reminders of the region’s history, particularly during the two World Wars of the 20th Century. About 30km from the charming town of Saint Omer is the Fortress at Mimoyecques, a Germany V3 site.
A few kilometres from the cliff tops of Cap Gris-Nez, in Landrethun-le-Nord, on the Opal Coast, the fortress of Mimoyecques was to be used for the Installation of the giant underground V3 super gun.
The V3 weapon was basically a cannon with a towering barrel which had breaches where additional explosives were inserted to accelerate the speed of the main shell. There were 35 of them and each had to be reloaded separately by forced labourers for each main charge to be fired. The weapon was directed across the channel towards London and was intended to fire 3000 rounds a day. Allied bombing however put the firing bunker out of action before any great damage had been done.
The fortress at Mimoyecques is now a museum. It is also home to eleven species of bat and the museum is closed during the winter months to protect the breeding period.
It was here that Lieutenant Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the eldest son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, was killed. Already tipped for greatness and being groomed for and predicted to be a future President of the United States, his life was cut short when his B24 bomber, destined to drop its load at Mimoyecques, accidently exploded. His younger brother John Kennedy took his place in politics.
While you’re in the area, visit the Musée Batterie Todt at nearby Audinghen. An extraordinary bunker museum which looks as though its occupants have simply gone for a wander leaving their belongings behind. There’s a very rare train gun, a German canon “K5” on rails in the grounds.
Find out more about places to visit in the area: www.pas-de-calais.com
Loads more to do and see in Nord-Pas de Calais
Where to stay:
www.chateaudecocove.com 18th Century chateau converted into a luxury hotel and great restaurant, set in a gorgeous park at Recques-sur-Hem, close to Saint Omer
www.fermetduvert.com Boutiquey famhouse hotel set on a cheese farm where artisans produce the most delicious fromage. Very good restaurant; located at Wierre-Effroy, between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint Omer (some dog friendly rooms available).
Bob Lyons is an ex-pilot turned travel writer.