Discovering the blockhouses of Royan Atlantique
De Ronce-les-Bains north to Semussac to the south, the last vestiges of Atlantic Wall punctuate the coast of beauty. Between 1942 and 1944, the Nazis built this system of fortifications to “armor” the coast against the possibility of an Allied landing. In 2013, the Royan Atlantique Agglomeration Community counted some 280 books along a cord of about thirty kilometers.
Like ghost ships stranded on the sand, they still haunt, by the dozens, the Grande Côte beach between Saint-palais-sur-mer et Palmyra. These concrete monsters are continually whipped by the rolls and overwhelmed by the tides. They still carry the echo of artillery salvos and aerial bombing of which they were the targets in the spring of 1945 during the liberation of Royan. Triggered on April 14, the so-called “venerable” operation defeats the German blockhouses from behind. The fire comes by the ground and not by the waves thus thwarting Hitler's initial plans.
Since his declaration of war on the United States, Hitler feared an Allied landing from the Atlantic front. This fear had led the Third Reich to build a deterrent wall of fortifications over more than 4 kilometers. Royan was also one of the keystones of this real line of cement and steel. The seaside resort enjoys a strategic position in the minds of the general staffs. It commands, in fact, at the entrance to the Gironde estuary, access to the port of Bordeaux.
Royan transformed into a fortress
From 1942, the occupying forces erected the "pearl of the coast of beauty" into a veritable fortress. They arrange the surrounding strikes of sentinels planted with minefields in the wake of an impressive panoply of anti-tank obstacles, barbed wire, stakes, studs and "dragon's teeth" (pyramidal blocks cast in reinforced concrete). With Royan for pivot, the Nazi defense system was deployed over the entire Arvert peninsula.
The Atlantic Wall
On point of the Coubre, a heavy battery with a very long range (30 kilometers), is installed on the beach.
The device then stretches a barrier of lighter artillery towards the south, along the Grande Côte, at a place called Terre-Nègre near the eponymous lighthouse of Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, to the residential district of Le Chay whose historic XNUMXth century fort is integrated into the Atlanticwall.
The construction of Atlantic Wall is directed by the Organization Todt, a super-ministry in charge of Public Works supervised since 1942 by the architect Albert Speer favorite of the Führer. It mobilizes legions of men, first German volunteers, then Spanish prisoners, and even French workers. The work leads to the construction, sometimes on the side of dunes or rocks, of various structures:
- concrete shelters, for coastal surveillance
- radar stations
- ammunition bunkers
- bunkers individual “tobruk” type…
The blockhouses, vestiges of the Second World War
On the Grande Côte beach, a dozen bunkers are gradually dissociating themselves from their natural protection. Driven by the westerly winds, they begin to glide on the beach in the 1950s, getting ever closer to the water line. Others, further back, merge with the pine vegetation of the Coubre forest. The most solidly anchored to the mainland are outcropping in the middle of the city Let us quote for example the reused bunker at the entrance of a Saint-Palais-sur-Mer campsite (157 avenue de la Grande Côte) or the concrete fort visible along the Puits de l'Auture footpath.
The most emblematic sites for discovering the remains of the Atlantic wall on Destination Royan Atlantique are the following :
- Ronce-les-Bains (Galon d'Or beach),
- The point of Suzac (Saint-Georges-de-Didonne),
- The tip of the Coubre,
- The place called “Le Requin” in Les Mathes (Rest Adler Cosel battery),
- Grande Côte beach in Saint-Palais-sur-Mer,
- The point of Chay
- And the Belmont district in Royan (avenue du 4e Zouave).
From April to September, the guided tour "The Atlantic Wall" in Saint-Palais-sur-Mer allows you to discover the 3 fortified batteries of the town during a walk between beach and forest. Booking and ticketing at our tourist offices.