Two aerial rides reduce the seaside resort to nothing. Led by the allies in January and then in April 1945, the bombing campaigns aimed to dislodge the enemy from the " pocket of Royan ". This islet of resistance formed one of the main "locks" of the Atlantic coast, firmly held by the Nazis.

A shower of bombs falls on Royan in 1945

The fate of Royan Was it sealed in the winter of 1944? As debacle loomed for the Wehrmacht on the Russian front, a Hitler directive issued on January 19 anticipated an Allied landing in Western Europe. To discourage the possibility of an organized invasion from Great Britain, a list of ports to defend. The Charente resort is one of these "Festungen" (fortresses) with La Rochelle, Brest or Saint-Nazaire. The Führer orders to hold at all costs in order to thwart the progression of the Allied forces in occupied France.


These strategic coastal sectors also serve as fallback areas for soldiers of the Third Reich the heart of Atlantic Wall. For the troops landed on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, they formed until the end of the conflict in Europe pockets of resistance very hard. These pockets are so many deadly obstacles on the long road to Liberation. Many of them, like Dunkirk or Lorient, only fell thanks to the German capitulation, signed on May 8, 1945. A siege lasting several months made it possible to retake Royan three weeks earlier, on April 17. Heavy bombardments on Royan including two air raids finally gut the city and cause many victims.

Le Bombing of Royan on January 5, 1945

On its own, the operation carried out on 5th January 1945 left 500 dead and some 1 injured among the civilians still present in the town. It takes place on a freezing night of almost -000 C°. Scattered snowflakes flutter in the overpowering halos of flares, red and green. Above the objective, the roar of a fleet of 10 Lancasters flying the English flag (Royal Air Force). She crushes two successive waves, at 4:10 a.m. and 5:20 a.m., a deluge of 1 tons of explosive bombs.

Royan, on the ground

On the ground, the infernal breath of the bombardments destroys the heart of Royan. In less than an hour, he wipes the slate clean of a carefree era born of the promises of seaside tourism.

5 houses fell to ashes, businesses and public monuments were devastated by more than 000%.

OfNotre-Dame church, erected less than a century earlier (on the site of the current Place Charles-de-Gaulle) there remains only a heap of charred stones from which emerge sections of emaciated facades where the break of the neo-architectural arches still stands out. Gothic, emptied of their monumental doors and their stained glass windows. A shame: in this landscape of dust and rubble, only the German fortifications escaped total destruction.


A ground intervention called "Independence" led by the French Forces of the West of General Edgard de Larminat was to follow this air attack. It was eventually postponed. On site, the first emergency is to save the injured. Then, we must provide a home for those who no longer have a home. With the consent of the occupants, a first aid and care system was organized at the Sainte-Marthe clinic in Pontaillac. Then, the patients are transferred to an intact establishment in Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. The survivors are offered accommodation in Royan. We set up reception centers in La Roche, Maine-Geoffroy and Saint-Georges-de-Didonne.

During the following three months, the "Pearl of the Atlantic" becomes a ghost town. Only the Pontaillac and Le Parc districts still have inhabitants. During the day, groups of unharmed families relocated to the outskirts occasionally return to the town center in order to find personal objects scattered in the rubble.

Royan, under Allied bombardment

The German command, which still holds the "pocket" in the spring, expects a new allied attack. This one, baptized "Venerable", is programmed for the 14th April and must be decisive. The staffs are deploying major resources. 30 men are at the disposal of Larminat. A formation of 000 tanks from General Leclerc's 200nd Armored Division and 2 guns provided by the FFI and the United States come in support. Finally, a naval fleet of 250 battleships responsible for securing theGironde estuary complete this large device. 

Did you know?

Attached to General Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division, Jean Moncorgé, better known as Jean Gabin, participates in the liberation of Royan.

On the said day, the B17s and B24s of the 8th Air Force led by American General Doyle dropped 3 tons of shells. The next day, the shelling resumed under the aegis of an armada of 200 planes. They dumped, in addition to the explosives, 1 liters of napalm, a new flammable product made up of gelled gasoline. This weapon, which will be used massively in the conflicts to come (in particular in Indochina, before its prohibition in 350 by the UN) has already been tested in August 725 during the resumption of Saint-Malo (bombardment of the small island of Cézembre ).

Le Tuesday April 17, Allied troops enter the ruined city. Brief exchanges of fire took place around the German headquarters (at the Golf-Hotel). After that, Rear Admiral Michaelles, who had taken refuge in his blockhouse, agreed to surrender.

It is 12:45 p.m.: Royan, on the ground, is officially liberated from Nazi control.

Villa Boomerang
Shoot the Land

The seaside resort of Charente-Maritime will be rebuilt during the 50s in an avant-garde style and will become the most “50” city in France.

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