Quietly crumbling into the sea, in amongst soft dunes isolated by marshland, is the Batterie Blankenese de Néville-sur-Mer. A few miles east of Cherbourg this is not a famous WW2 heritage site, but still a poignant reminder of when Normandy was occupied by an unwelcome enemy.
Here, from 1943 the Kreigsmarine, German navy, defended Cherbourg with British anti-aircraft Vickers guns seized in 1940 from the Channel Islands, along with captured French guns.
When the Battery came under heavy attack from the US navy on 18 June 1944, the short firing distance of the guns – 12km for the Vickers, 20km for the French guns – rendered them useless. Before evacuating to Cherbourg the Blankenese sailors blew up what they could of the site.
The 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 4th Cavalry Group finished the job for them when they liberated nearby Néville-sur-Mer. A declassified Historical Report for the 24th suggests this was probably 22 June 1944 when they were between Barfleur and Cherbourg and ‘in contact with the enemy line of resistance, which was a series of fortified areas’. If you have more information we will be please to update this page.
Since the war this coastline has shifted and now high tide washes over many of the buildings. Blankenese was built closer to the sea than many other Atlantic Wall gun Batteries, a hallmark of the Kreigsmarine.
The sea and winter storms are slowly breaking up the old concrete and these buildings change constantly, further away from their murderous past to be ineffectual, if sculptural, ruins.
- Read the declassified historical report for the 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance squadron covering June and July 1944, from the Army War College in Washington-pdf
Our visit was in September 2016. The site is in open countryside with free parking down a bumpy track. Caution is advised if you find anything that looks like a bullet, live ammunition is frequently found in the area.