Friday, September 30, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

The U-Boat Pens
Arrived in Brest, France this morning. Lucy and I visited this smallish city back in the early 1990s (aboard the QE2, no less!). Most of the crew has scattered for the bars and clubs in town but--being a very odd-ball kind of mariner (with no desire for alcohol--no tattoos, either!)--the objects of my interest are arrayed only a few hundred yards from our mooring!
Schoolships 'Leopard' and 'Lion'
The enormous concrete structure that dominates modern NavBase Brest is the face of the infamous U-Boat pens which supported and protected German U-Boats for most of World War II. Built by Nazi engineers in 1940, they were nearly impregnable with 7-meter-thick roofs and anti-aircraft batteries clustered on top.

The U-Boat pens were major targets for Allied bomber raids, as killing a submarine in port was a much better bet than fighting them at sea. (This, by the way, is still true today!). It wasn't until late in the war that the British developed their "Tallboy" bombs and actually began to penetrate these structures!
Destroyers  'Aquitaine' and 'Le Motte-Picquet'
In addition to the pens I am including a few photos of French naval vessels moored nearby; most impressive are the sleek 'Aquitaine'-class destroyers, which seem to dwarf earlier classes.
Destroyer 'Provence'
I'm hoping to get over for a visit to one or two ships while we're here, but tomorrow I'm concentrating on trying to penetrate some Nazi fortifications...I have to wonder how it feels to serve in ships and oher naval commands on this base and to have this huge remnant of the Nazi monster that crushed France at the beginning of World War II looming over everything in sight.  Perhaps I'll find out tomorrow.
 'Tenace', 'Armen' and (on the right) an unidentifiable Tug

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