Brittany was a very important strategic place during the Second World War. German militaries defended the breton region with the building of fortifications, the Atlantik wall along the atlantik coast (from Danemark to France). Bunkers but also antitank obstacles, concrete pillboxes to house machine guns... were done.

They also transformed the ports of Saint Nazaire, Brest, Lorient et Saint Malo into fortresses.

view of Saint Malo from the city fort

That’s for the main context. Let’s go now to Saint Malo and one of its district Saint Servan. (Saint Servan is part of the municipality of Saint Malo since 1967). The fortifications of Saint Malo were designed by Vauban (1663-1707), Marshal of France and famous military engineer. He also wanted Saint Servan to be strengthened and specially the cité d’Aleth, the outposts to the Rance estuary.

fort of Aleth

But it was done much later when the peninsula suffered from a British assault. In 1758, the major Marlborough invaded the Aleth peninsula and was thinking of doing the same in Saint Malo when he was shelled. He left the peninsula but did burn all the ships around before leaving the place. It did not take long, in 1759, one year later, Mazin, a French engineer began to build an artillery fort

remains of the fort

to protect the estuary.

Fort of Aleth

Almost 200 years later, the fort was strengthened by the Germans : you can visit the Mémorial 39-45,

Memorial 39-45

situated in the middle of the peninsula, in a large coutyard. The Museum is located in one of the bunkers of the fortifications, you’ll see a documentary and an exhibition about the WWII.

On the platform, about 30 bunkers

bunker of the city fort of Aleth

bunker of Saint Servan

were erected joined by underground passages with pillboxes.

pillbox of Saint Servan

The whole region was fortified : Cézembre, the island in front of you, the pointe de la Varde (Varde’s cape at the end of the long beach of Saint Malo), a radar at Cap Fréhel… The fort of Saint Servan was the German headquarter with the commandor Von Aulock.

The Allies invaded Normandy in June and arrived at Saint Malo August 2d. But they were not many to conquer the place, most of them were fighting in Normandy. The Allies decided to shell Saint Malo and after 15 days of intense bombings,

impact on a pillbox in Saint Servan

the German surrendered (august 17th). More than 70% of Saint Malo was destroyed and it lasted 12 years to rebuild the city like it was (1948-1960).

The island of Cézembre held out untill September 2d (site de l’inventaire général du patrimoine culturel). 80 bunkers were built there to control the port of Saint Malo and it is the more bombed place on the French territory.

Island of Cezembre

Napalm bombs were dropped on it. Unexploded shells are still on the island and have to be defused. It is still a no trespassing zone on most of the place.

From the courtyard, you have a really nice view : on your right of Saint Malo, in front of you Dinard

view of Dinard from the city fort of Saint Servan

and on your left, the Rance estuary.

Read it in French : Visite du fort de la Cité d'Aleth à Saint Servan, quartier de saint Malo (Bretagne)