|Lorient Submarine Base|
Philipp Groß has been out and about again...this time to a submarine base!
The Keroman U-Boat Base at Lorient
Like in many other French port cities, Lorient became the site of a German U-Boat base during World War Two. Located on the Keroman peninsula, the installations at Lorient became the largest of their kind. Consisting of three large and several smaller bunkers, the Keroman base provided space for up to 30 U-Boats, their crews and supplies.
The construction of the first two bunkers, named K I and K II, was completed in September and December of 1941. The rocky ground at the site, while allowing for extraordinarily thick bunker roofs, made a direct access from sea impossible. Therefore, an elaborate system consisting of a slipway and a transfer table, not unlike those used for locomotives yet much larger, was installed. Lifting a boat from the water and transferring it into one of the twelve protected boxes (five in K I and seven in K II) was possible within 35 minutes.
To simplify the day to day operations, a third Bunker K3 was erected between January 1941 and October 1943 to the south of K1 and K2, which provided seven boxes for thirteen boats with direct access from the harbour, as it was common to other German submarine pens. A fourth and fifth bunker K IVa and K IVb, designed to handle the new Class XXI boats, were never finished after construction was abandoned in mid 1944.
Following the war, the base was taken over by the French Navy and used once again for its original purpose, harbouring parts of the French submarine fleet. The base was finally closed in 1997, as it was unable to handle nuclear submarines.
Today, small parts of K I have been converted into a museum dedicated to the history of submarine warfare. Other parts of the bunkers can be visited during guided tours, regrettably none took place during the day I visited, despite the museum flyers available virtually everywhere in Brittany saying otherwise. The main exhibit, however, was open to the public: The French submarine Flore, in service from 1964 to 1989 and part of the Daphné class, which saw widespread service both with France and several other countries, namely Portugal, Spain, Pakistan and South Africa. Of the 25 built, several boats continued to serve until the mid 2000s, while the Portuguese boat Barracuda remained in service until 2010. Two French boats, the Minerve and the Eurydice, were lost at sea in 1968 and 1970.
The diesel-electric Daphné class is equipped with eight torpedo tubes in the bow and four in the stern, which can only be reloaded in port. The maximum speed is 15 knots when submerged and 12 knots surfaced, with a maximum range of 10.000 nautical miles, or 30 days at sea.
When exploring the Flore, the visitor is equipped with headphones and a device that automatically plays short segments of narration from the perspective of a French submariner, depending on the section you currently stand in. At the time of my visit, French and English versions (the latter with a thick French accent) were available.
The museum's homepage can be found here: