Cherbourg-Octeville is a city and commune, situated on the Cotentin peninsula in the Manche department of Lower Normandy in north-western France. It is a subprefecture of its department, and was officially formed when the commune of Cherbourg absorbed Octeville on 28 February 2000. Due to its union, it is the most populated city in its department and the second-most in the region after the prefecture, Caen.
The Cotentin Peninsula was the first territory conquered by the Vikings in their 9th-century invasion. They developed Cherbourg as a port. The Germanic-sounding name of the city comes from Old English Ċiriċeburh ("village of the church") and was coined during the Migration Period.
In the Napoleonic era, the harbour was fortified to prevent British naval incursions. Underwater obstructions were sunk at intervals across the harbour entrance, and progressively replaced with piles of masonried rubble. The works were begun in 1784 and were not concluded until 1850, long after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.
On 19 June 1864, the Battle of Cherbourg, a naval engagement between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama that was part of the American Civil War, took place in international waters off Cherbourg. The Alabama was hit and sank. In November 1984, the French Navy mine hunter Circé discovered a wreck under nearly 60 m (200 ft) of water off Cherbourg. The location of the wreck (WGS84) was 49°45'147N / 001°41'708W. Captain Max Guerout later confirmed the wreck to be of the Alabama.
On 31 July 1909, tsar Nicholas II and French president Armand Fallières met officially in Cherbourg to reinforce the Franco-Russian Alliance. Cherbourg was the first stop of RMS Titanic after it left Southampton, England.
During World War II, the Germans occupied the north of France and fortified the coastline against invasion. As a deep-water port, Cherbourg was of strategic importance, but with very heavily protected against a seaborne assault. The Battle of Cherbourg, fought by the Allies in June 1944 against the Germans following the Normandy Invasion, ended with the Allies capturing the city and its vital port on 30 June. The French celebrated their liberation from the German occupation.
The Norman language writer Alfred Rossel, a native of Cherbourg, composed many songs which form part of the heritage of the region. Rossel's song "Sus la mér" ("on the sea") is often sung as a regional patriotic song. The local dialect is known as Cotentinais.
La Glacerie was named for glass factory. In 1655, Louis Lucas de Néhou built a glass factory which produced windows and mirrors for such buildings as the Galerie des Glaces and Château de Versailles. The factory in La Glacerie was destroyed by Allied bombardments in 1944 during the Normandy invasion.