THE HISTORY OF THE HANGAR

ORIGIN : THE FIRST WORLD WAR


At the beginning of the 20th century, the French Navy had to adapt to the new methods of combat : the appearance of submarine warfare, the rise of planes, seaplanes, airships.

In 1910 the french Navy acquired its first aircraft. In 1911 the creation of the Aviation Centres of Brest and Cherbourg then the following year the "Maritime Aviation" saw the light of day. The "Aeronautic Service" was officially created on 20 March 1912 but its organisation was established in July 1914.

It includes : a central aeronautical service, aero centres, a main centre and aircraft flight centres.

It was not until 1915 that the first airships arrived and until 1917 that operational captive balloons were finally put into service aboard fleet vessels.


It was also in 1917 that Germany decided to embark on a massive submarine war under the leadership od Admiral Von tirpitz, considered to be the founder of the German high seas fleet. Allied commercial is now being torpedoed without warning by submarine fleets.

The French Admiralty reacted quickly, under the leadership of Rear-Admiral Lacaze, Minister of the Navy since November 1915, by opening twenty aviation centres, twelve airship centres and fifteen captive balloon centres.

Fighting German submarines is becoming the priority.

On December 6, 1916, it was decided to create an airship centre on the Ecausseville site. For example, in Ecausseville-Montebourg, a first wooden hangar was built between January and August 1917, when it hosted its first airship (the Sea Scout SS-49 / VA-3).
This wooden hangar is built by the Sainte-Beuve & Garnier society. Its dimensions are : 150 x 20 x 22 meters.

An Hydrogen plant is built. Hydrogen is produced by the action of soda on ferrosilicon.

A second Hangar (this time in concrete beton) was erected between November 1917 and August 1919. It is made with new techniques requiring new specialists and materials, especially specific aggregates. The main gate will not be completed until 1920.

 


From August 1917 airships will carry out missions over the Channel from the base of Ecausseville. After the Armistice they will continue to train and some will participate with the fleet in naval reviews.

THE INTER-WAR PERIOD


The Wooden Hangar was damaged by the storm of 24 August 1931 and was later demolished (1933). The Navy finally abandoned the airships in 1936.

The base then receives the Heavy Artillery Mobile Group of Coast and DCA composed of two batteries of 155 mm and four batteries of Anti Aircraft Artillery of 90 mm. Each battery consisted of four canons.

The two 155mm batteries were stored in Montebourg and deployed in 1939 in the Dunkirk-Gravelines sector. The 155mm Mobile Group was sent to the Netherlands to stop the Germans and participated in the Dunkirk Pocket battle without fail.

In the spring of 1938, one of the AAA batteries was sent to Port Vendres to monitor aircraft crossing the border. She will be back in october.

Big names will ring out like Lieutenant Jabet and Lieutenant Dognin.

The surviving batteries will be destroyed to leave nothing to the enemy but many sailors from Ecausseville will die fighting.


At that time 150 to 200 officers and men live on the base : 30 men for the two batteries of 155mn / 72 for the four batteries of 90mn / 30 for the projectors / 10 for the listening stations / 30 for the drivers of tractors and trucks.

The 155 mm guns are Schneider 1932. They can fire 50 kg shells at 27 kms. Training is done by shooting at sea from the Cap Levy area. These batteries are actually more "semi-mobile" than actually "mobile".

To be moved, the Schneider Long Mle 1932 155 mm gun must be broken down into two separate bundles, each driven by 1 Somua-Latyl semi-tracked tractor. Ammunitions are transported in Citroën trucks.

 

WORLD WAR ll


Between 1940 and 1944 the Germans settled in the Hangar.

During this period of the Occupation the Germans will store equipment for the construction of the Atlantic wall (Cement, wood, guns and ammunition).

It is known that it lost its two rolling metal doors (12 m x 27 m) in 1940. It seems that the cyclone of 14 November and a false maneuver of the Germans are at the origin of their destruction.

The Germans cut them out without replacing them. The front will not be closed until 1953 by a cinder block wall.

The site includes a large number of German, American, English and French graffiti. These graffiti are classified as historical monuments. It's one of the sites with the greatest number of graffiti (300m) in France.


On 9 June 1944 to stop the advance of the US 4th Infantry Division , the Germans reinforced their position in the south of Montebourg on the line : Le Ham – Montebourg – Azeville. The Hangar is defended by the AOK7. The Germans are fighting one against ten in the hangar. Their goal is to do maximum damage and fall back on the line of defense.

At 10:00, the 3rd battalion of the 8th Infantry attacks. The first 2 assaults are crushed, it's the 3rd assault with the L company that will «hook up» the ground. After several hours of combat, including close combat, the hangar was abandoned by the Germans after heavy losses on both sides.

The Americans settled there and used it until 1945 as a storage and maintenance centre for several thousand vehicles and tanks.

In 1946, the Marine Nationale plans to sell the site and then decides to use it in storage of field hospitals and various spare parts for ships and planes until 1994.

THE COLD WAR


Between 1967 and 1969, part of the Hangar was reserved for the Directorate of Military Applications of the Atomic Energy Commission for the development of balloons for the testing of the first French H-bombs at Mururoa.

This site will become a secret base... But shh, not the right to talk about it.... We are in the middle of the Cold War.


TODAY...


In 1998, the Hangar and the surrounding grounds were acquired by the French American Association of Normandy Airfields of the 9th US Air Force, which obtained the classification as an historical monument for the Hangar in February 2003.

On this date (2003), a second association : the Association of Friends of the Airship Hangar of Ecausseville, was created.

In 2008, the community of municipalities acquires the hangar but it is up to the Association to invest in finding the means and financing to be implemented to ensure the best promotion and exploitation.


BONUS...

Discover the secrets of balloons, airships and other aircraft on  :

aerohistory.org


ASSOCIATION DES AMIS DU HANGAR A DIRIGEABLES D'ÉCAUSSEVILLE
AAHDE - Mai
rie de Montebourg - Place Charles De Gaulle

50310 MONTEBOURG

Tél. 02 33 08 56 02 (durant horaires d'ouverture)

Mail : contact@aerobase.fr - site : www.aerobase.fr

 



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