After France collapsed early on in World War Two, Germany was left facing off against the British Empire (who remained alone to continue the fight). But neither could knock the other out of the war, so the Germans sought to strangle Britain's vital supply routes through the sea and set up powerful bases along the French Coast to do that.

Oddly enough, while the Keroman Submarine Base in France is one of the largest former German U-Boat bases, one will not see a German U-Boat there today. But one can see a captured German U-Boat in Chicago in the United States - it is part of one of the best naval museums in the United States.


The Keroman Submarine Base

The Royal Navy could largely blockade German access to the ocean from Germany, but with the Fall of France and Norway, it became almost impossible to hem the Germans in. The Germans quickly built a submarine naval base in Lorient, France so that they would be outside of the British blockade plus they would be closer to the action and cut down on losing valuable time. This increased the range and endurance of the U-boats.

Lorient was already a French naval base and already had the facilities the Germans needed to set up a new base. Lorient also had numerous cafes and bars as well as a red-light district that would have been welcomed by the sailors.

The base was capable of sheltering 30 submarines undercover. The base was well protected. The Allies heavily bombed and damaged the naval base during the war, but were never able to destroy it.

  • Name: The German Base Was Called Keroman Submarine Base
  • Capacity: It Could Shelter 30 Submarines

Instead, the Allies decided to flatten the city and the port of Lorient in an effort to cut off the supply lines to the U-boat bases. It worked but devasted the French city of Lorient. In the end, the Germans were unable to resupply their submarines with fuel, weapons, and provisions, but the base itself survived the war.

  • City of Lorient: Some 90% of The City Was Flattened
  • Bombing: The Allies Dropped As Many As 500 High Explosive and 60,000 Incendiary Bombs On Lorient

Related: Why Visiting NYC's Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is A Must

Subsequent Use And Decommissioning

After the break out of the Allies from Normandy, Lorient was surrounded by the Allies and the remaining U-boats were evacuated in August 1944. The Germans defending the port managed to hold out until the end of the war.

Germany went on to lose World War Two and the French Navy took over the site once again. The base was eventually decommissioned in 1997 and turned over to civilian use.

  • Cold War: It Was A French Naval Base During The Cold War
  • Decommissioning: It Was Decommissioned In 1997

In 1997 the site became available for civilian use and the former submarine pens were converted into industrial units. Today it is also a "European centre of excellence in the sailing world" according to its website.

Three impressively large blocks were built and (rather unimaginatively) named KI, KII, and KIII. Today guided tours are offered of Block K3.

Related: How To Get The Most Out Of A Historical Visit To The Pearl Harbor Museum & Memorial

Keroman Submarine Museum

Part of the facility is open to the public and is part of the Keroman submarine museum. One of the main attractions at the museum is Flore - a French Daphné-class submarine that was first launched in 1961. Visitors can also see the oldest rescue simulator for submariners from World War Two.

  • Submarine: The 1961 French Flore Submarine Is On Display

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 The museum is a must for anyone in the region. The tone is set by the submarine pen's doors weighing 30 tons and measuring 10 meters high.

The tour starts in an old submarine pen with video screens that delve into the history of Lorient and the location's strategic value. The museum is designed to recreate the daily life of the sailors with several areas represented including the:

  • The Engine Room: Learn How Everything Required Special Attention And What it Was Like
  • The living quarters: Learn about "Hot bunking", "heads" and "pusser" And see The Military Austerity of Living In A U-Boat
  • Dive safety: This is a Film That Immerses One In The Art of Diving
  • Operations room and weapon systems: See the Eyes and Ears of The Submarine And Where The Vessel Was Commanded From

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One can choose from a range of guided tour options of the site from their website. Guided tours are available in English and last for 1.5 hours.

The last tour departure leaves 1.5 hours before closure and the last tickets are sold 1.5 hours before closure.

The tours run every 40 minutes from 10.00 am with 35 people per tour group.

While exploring the French Atlantic coastline don't forget to visit the eye-catching tidal castle Isle Of Mont-Saint-Michel.

Next: Here's How You Can Charter Your Own Submarine With Waterproof Expeditions