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A photographic record of the storm of iron & fire; Le Havre 1944

Le Havre Then and Now (1)

We found this emotional set of images, showing Le Havre before and after the bombing of 1944, tucked in amongst some ordinary vintage postcards at the Foire des Andaines.

The photos have been carefully composed by someone who thought we should not forget, and they tell the story of Operation Astonia in ways words cannot.

Operation Astonia

For some months after D-Day, Le Havre in Normandy was still occupied by the German army.  The town was also strategically vital so the Allies agreed to a desperate plan to reclaim it – the unforgiving ‘Operation Astonia’.

Allied bombs rained on Le Havre during the night of 5 & 6 September.  The bombardment was so intense, so terrible, that it became known as the ‘storm of iron and fire’.  Just to make sure, bombing continued for another three days.

Le Havre was finally liberated on 12 September but at appalling cost.  5000 people had died, 12,500 buildings had been destroyed, the port was devastated (partly by departing Germans) and some 350 wrecks clogged the sea bed.  Hundreds of years of history, of memories, destroyed. The price of freedom.

“Du Havre – ce qui fut ce qui est”

This folder of images was called by the photographer “of Havre – what was and what is”.  

Can you find these views today?

If you have a recent photo of any of these views please email us, we would be delighted to add your picture (with full credits) to show the modern story of Le Havre alongside the lost.

Thank you

Le Havre Then and Now (13)



Le Havre Then and Now (12)



Le Havre Then and Now (10)



Le Havre Then and Now (7)



Le Havre Then and Now (6)



Le Havre Then and Now (4)



Le Havre Then and Now (3)



Le Havre Then and Now (2)



Le Havre Then and Now (5)



Le Havre Then and Now (11)



Le Havre Then and Now (9)



ce qui fut ce qui est which was what is

8 thoughts on “A photographic record of the storm of iron & fire; Le Havre 1944

  1. my dad Robert Edward Millington was involved in the battle for LeHarve and was awarded a D,S,M. [something I didn’t know of till long after his death

    1. My father John Panik was in Le Havre and responsible for assignment of some of the American soldier to battle areas. I wish he had talked about his war experiences, but I was 12 when he died and would have asked him if he had lived longer. I think he suffered from PSTD, although that was not recognized back then.
      After seeing these photos, I can imagine what a terrible tragic experience this was to the soldiers.. And I do not think their wives ever understood what they saw, and went through.

    2. Hi Robert – I would love to talk to you concerning your dad. I have been researching the Glosters for many years now. My dad was also a Gloster but post WW2. All the best Andy

  2. My 88 year old father has this same book that he bought in Le Havre when he was in the service. He gave it to me on my last visit to see him. I found it very sad and also a treasure to have. Do you know if this book is of any $ value? I would hate to keep it if he could sell it. Otherwise, I would love to keep it for the historical value alone.

  3. “…or where the original was lost”. I meant to add “even if the building was reconstructed to look like the old one”.

  4. This is actually something I’ve started doing recently myself, only on a larger scale: Being interested in WWII for most of my life, but only finally having just taken my first trip to Europe this summer, I became truly aware of just how much destruction the war caused to the continent, and in Asia, and how much great architecture was lost forever, or where the original was lost. Since getting back I’ve been collecting pre-WWII postcards of cities and areas that were destroyed, like the ones above. And in the past few weeks I’ve also been adding photos of war damage to that archive. It’s heartbreaking but, as the comment above said, I’m glad the postcards of a few of those places exist.

  5. Wow these images are so sobering. Fascinating. What a lot of beautiful buildings lost, so sad. But, at the very least these postcards are here to show us some. Thank you.

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