Bretteville French Fort
Site in 1940
Bretteville was an old French fort, in use long before the Germans arrived in
Normandy. Bretteville was just one in a ring of forts situated high on the
cliffs surrounding the port of Cherbourg. Until very recently Cherbourg was a
very important naval port keeping a wary eye on the English, just across the
There are two forts here, the first some two hundred years old, and it is
situated just to the east of the main fort. The guns used in this early fort
would have been muzzle loaders and you can still see the hooks for the chains
that would have stopped the recoil of the guns.
The ammunition was stored below the gun platform in small chambers. As was
typical of the period the guns are placed on top of a defensive wall around two
The second fort built in the 1890ís as a strong point with a defensive wall
around it was built very much on the lines on the earlier fort.
The main difference was that the guns were mounted on revolving platforms and
not on wheeled carriages.
They were also breech loading, and although they would have been in situ when
the Germans arrived there is now evidence that they used them or the ultimate
fate of the guns. In 1940 the Germans installed 240 mm cannons here, but by the
time of D-day they were gone and the site was used for anti aircraft cannon and
also used the fire control post as an observation post.
There is also evidence that it was used as a training site for newly arrived
troops from the Fatherland.
The old French fire control post used a lot of metal in its manufacture a luxury
that the Germans could not afford. During the occupation the Germans' used the
site to train Anti Aircraft gunners as can be seen in the 1940 photo.