Place:Saint-Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique, France


Alt namesCarbilosource: Webster's Geographical Dictionary (1988) p 1052-1053
Saint Nazairesource: Getty Vocabulary Program
St-Nazairesource: Family History Library Catalog
Coordinates47.283°N 2.2°W
Located inLoire-Atlantique, France
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Saint-Nazaire (; ; Gallo: Saint-Nazère/Saint-Nazaer) is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France, in traditional Brittany.

The town has a major harbour on the right bank of the Loire estuary, near the Atlantic Ocean. The town is at the south of the second-largest swamp in France, called "la Brière". Given its location, Saint-Nazaire has a long tradition of fishing and shipbuilding. The Chantiers de l'Atlantique, one of the largest shipyards in the world, constructed notable ocean liners such as , , and the cruise ship , the largest passenger ship in the world .

Saint-Nazaire was a small village until the Industrial Revolution but became a large town in the second half of the 19th century, thanks to the construction of railways and the growth of the seaport. Saint-Nazaire progressively replaced upstream Nantes as the main haven on the Loire estuary.

As a major submarine base for the Kriegsmarine, Saint-Nazaire was subject to a successful British raid in 1942 and was heavily bombed by the Allies until 1945. Being one of the Atlantic pockets, Saint-Nazaire was one of the last territories in Europe to be liberated from German occupation, on 11 May 1945. The town was one of the most damaged in France during World War II.



the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia


Archaeologists believe that Saint-Nazaire is built upon the remnants of Corbilo, an Armorican Gaulish city populated by the Namnetes tribe, which (according to the Greek navigator Pytheas) was the second-largest Gaulish city, after Massilia (now Marseille). Archeology suggests that the area has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic period, as evidenced by the presence of monuments like the tumulus of Dissignac, the dolmen located in the centre of the present-day city, and ancient bronzes found in the vicinity.

According to the 15th-century chronicler Alain Bouchart, Brutus of Troy, the mythical ancestor of the Bretons, travelled to Saint-Nazaire to set foot upon the new homeland of his people. Historical accounts note that at the end of the Roman Empire, some Britons colonized the Loire estuary and later the peninsula containing Guérande. The farthest extent of the Breton language in the Loire region is Donges, to the east of Saint-Nazaire.

Middle Ages

According to the late-6th-century writer Gregory of Tours, the Roman Church sheltered the remains of the martyr Nazarius in a local basilica. According to legend, the Breton chief Waroch II sent an emissary to seize these relics. The plot was foiled when the emissary fractured his skull upon the lintel of the church door. Waroch, interpreting this as a miracle, was deterred and the village thenceforth took the name of Sanctus Nazarius de Sinuario.

After this point, the history of Saint-Nazaire, like much of Europe during the Dark Ages, is not well documented. Battles occurred, such as in 1380 when Jehan d'Ust defended the city in the name of John V, Duke of Brittany (known in France as Jean IV) against the Castilian fleet during the Hundred Years' War. After this time, Saint-Nazaire became the seat of a parish extending from Penhoët to Pornichet, part of the Viscountcy of Saint-Nazaire.

Like the whole of Brittany, Saint-Nazaire formed part of the Duchy of Brittany until 1532, when it was annexed by France. In 1756, a fort was built on the order of the governor of Brittany to protect the town, which by then had 600 inhabitants. Until the French Revolution, Saint-Nazaire belonged to the province of Brittany.

19th century industrialisation

At the beginning of the 19th century, the port only consisted of one simple harbour. As the town was so far inland, its main economy was not based on commercial fishing but on its strategic location as the lowest possible navigation point for large ships and on supplying pilots for navigation further up the Loire. In 1800, the parish of Saint-Nazaire had 3,216 inhabitants.

The modern Saint-Nazaire was created by the administration of Napoleon III. The population of 3,216 in 1800 shows its battered history, with a mainly local (Brière), of Lower Brittany (of Morbihan in the Finistère-south), and minor representation from most other areas of France. From this point forward the population of Saint-Nazaire experienced exponential growth, which was reflected in its nickname of "Little Breton California", or "Liverpool of the West".

In 1802, a road was built to develop the port, which extended by 1835 to a breakwater with a navigational lighthouse at its end. The development included new basins for ships to unload to barges that carried goods further up the river. This development moved the town into the area of the city which is now called the district of "Little Morocco". This development made the town the base for the passenger steamships of the Nantes–Saint-Nazaire line, as well as making the town the alternative port for ships which could not access Nantes.

In 1856, the first wet dock was dug in "Halluard City", making it possible for ships to moor and turn. This led to the construction of the town's first railway connection. In 1857, the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans (railroad company of Orléans) connected Saint-Nazaire to Nantes. In 1862, the first transatlantic telegraph lines were installed from France to South America, coming ashore at Saint-Nazaire. 1862 also saw the construction of major shipbuilding facilities, including those of Chantier Scott, which launched the first French metal-hulled ships. In 1868, Saint-Nazaire became a sub-prefecture of the town of Savenay. A second dock basin was created at Penhoët in 1881, to allow the handling of larger ships, but a lock gate built to access it cut the town in two, thus creating Old Saint-Nazaire and an artificial island called "Little Morocco".

In early 1870, Nantes-born Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau joined the bar in Saint-Nazaire. In September he became, in spite of his youth, secretary to the municipal commission temporarily appointed to carry on the town's business. He organized the National Defense at Saint-Nazaire, and marched out with his contingent, though they saw no active service due to lack of ammunition (their private store having been commandeered by the state). In 1873, he moved to the bar of Rennes, following the establishment of the Third Republic in 1871.

On 30 March 1894, a strike occurred at the forging mills of Trignac in opposition to a reduction of the work force. What had seemed a small dispute escalated after a shooting in Fourmies, resulting in the town getting its national nickname of "Red City". Socialists flocked to the town in defense of the striking workers, joining in the declaration of the "Fusillade de Fourmies".

In 1900, the commune of Pornichet was created by separating from the larger commune of Saint-Nazaire.

World War I

During World War I, the city became an important debarkment port of Allied troops, particularly in the latter stages for the United States Army. When they entered the war in 1917, they developed the town and port infrastructure, by adding additional drinking water storage ponds for the town's water treatment plants, and a refrigeration terminal to the docks for shipment and storage of meat and dairy products to supply their troops.

However, the presence of legal brothels (Maisons Tolérée) resulted in a diplomatic incident. As a result of strict reformist public health concerns at home, the American Expeditionary Force placed the Maisons Tolérée off limits, resulting in a dispute between the town's brothel owners backed by the mayor, versus the US Army forces. With the dispute escalating, Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau sent a memo to General John Pershing offering a compromise: American medical authorities would control designated brothels operated solely for American soldiers. Pershing passed the proposal to Raymond Fosdick, who on giving it to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker promptly responded: "For God's sake, Raymond, don't show this to the president or he'll stop the war." Only after the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, when the United States Army could no longer plead military necessity as grounds for curtailing leave, did venereal disease rates among United States Army troops rise quickly.

Inter-war period

The post-war period brought about a period of economic depression for the shipbuilders, who consequently diversified into building seaplanes from 1922. In 1926 the district of Paimbœuf was merged with the district of Saint-Nazaire, thus reinforcing the influence of the city on the south bank of the Loire River.

Although having built , between 1913 and 1921, and between 1925 and 1926, as a result of the 1930s Great Depression the French government commissioned a series of state programs to aid national economic activity. The state-owned shipping company Compagnie Générale Transatlantique commissioned the ship builders of Saint-Nazaire to construct a new large passenger ship, which as a result between 1928 and 1934 created the Albert Caquot–engineered the Louis Joubert dry dock – at , the largest of its kind in the world at the time – necessary to be able to accommodate the construction of . In 1932, the Saint-Nazaire casino went bankrupt and was resold to the town of Nantes: the site was redeveloped in 1935 as the first home of the current Saint-Louis school.

As a result of the national general strike of June 1936, to ensure completion of the nationally prestigious project SS Normandie, the government nationalised the various private shipyards into one state-owned entity, the 1861-founded Chantiers de l'Atlantique.

World War II

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht army at the start of World War II, the combined forces of the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force failed to hold the oncoming onslaught. As part of Operation Aerial, Saint-Nazaire, like Dunkirk, became an evacuation point to England for the British, with those embarking including the writer John Renshaw Starr.

Sinking of the Lancastria

On 17 June 1940 an estimated 9,000 British Army soldiers were embarked aboard the Clyde-built cruise liner, later converted to troopship, , which was attacked and sunk by German Junkers Ju 88 bombers, mainly from Kampfgeschwader 30, taking with her around 4,000 victims. This is the worst disaster in British maritime history and the worst loss of life for British forces in the whole of World War II. Winston Churchill banned all news coverage of the disaster on learning of it and it remains largely forgotten by history. A Lancastria memorial is located near the U-boat pens in Saint-Nazaire.

Miracle of Saint-Nazaire

The ball turret gunner of an American B-17F bomber fell onto the glass roof of the train station, even though his parachute had been destroyed by German flak while still in his plane. The US airman, called Alan Magee, survived the fall. A German military surgeon was able to save his nearly severed arm. The airman credits his survival to a prayer to "the Almighty" as he recovered consciousness during his fall.

U-boat pens

Following the surrender of France to German forces later in June 1940, the port immediately became a base of operations for the Kriegsmarine and was as such the target of Allied operations. A heavily fortified U-boat Saint-Nazaire submarine base was built by Organisation Todt shortly after occupation, with a concrete ceiling capable of withstanding almost any bomb in use at the time.

The base provided a home during the war to many of the best-known U-boat staff, including:

The base still stands today as its extremely sturdy construction makes demolition uneconomical. The base is now used by cafes, a bar and on the roof is an exhibition about Saint-Nazaire.

St Nazaire Raid

The huge Joubert drydock built for SS Normandie was the only port on the Atlantic capable of servicing the German battleships and . This made the port strategically important to both the Axis Powers and the Allies during World War II. After Operation Rheinübung on 18–27 May 1941, which resulted in the sinking of and the sinking of Bismarck, the need for the Allies to take the Joubert dry dock out of operation was increased. The Bismarck and the Tirpitz were to have ended their raid at Saint-Nazaire. On 28 March 1942, a force of 611 British Commandos and the Royal Navy launched the St Nazaire Raid against the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire, codenamed Operation Chariot. An obsolete American-built destroyer was used as a ram-ship loaded with explosives. It and the Commandos succeeded in destroying the gates and machinery of the Joubert drydock, preventing its further use by the Germans during the war. Of the 600+ navy and commando personnel, 220 returned, half were wounded. Five Victoria Crosses and 69 other decorations were awarded. The Joubert dry dock was not brought back into operation until 1948.

After Operation Chariot

The U-boat threat to supply convoys across the Atlantic made Saint-Nazaire a constant target of Allied air forces, in the face of determined Luftwaffe fighter opposition to raids by United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force bombers. On 3 January 1943 Colonel Curtis LeMay led 85 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 1st Bombardment Wing against the U-boat pens at Saint-Nazaire, on the Eighth Air Force's sixth raid against the facility. LeMay also introduced the combat box defensive formation, echeloning three-plane elements within a squadron, and squadrons within a group, to concentrate defensive firepower against fighter opposition. Only 76 aircraft found and hit the target and during the mission seven bombers were shot down and 47 damaged.

As a result of the raid, on 14 January 1943 under directive (S.46239/?? A.C.A.S. Ops), the Allies implemented incendiary bomb tactics against U-boat pens, under the Area bombing directive. To minimize civilian casualties during air attacks, the Allies devised a plan to force an evacuation of the town. For three days in 1943, British Royal Air Force and American aircraft dropped scores of leaflets warning the population of a planned fire-bombing raid. At the end of the third day, the raid came and burned the entire city to the ground. Casualties were light as most of the civilians had heeded the warning and fled to the safety of the countryside but after that point, except for the self-contained U-boat base, Saint-Nazaire remained abandoned until the end of the war.

After D-day and the liberation of most of France in 1944, German troops in Saint-Nazaire's submarine base refused to surrender, and they holed up (as did their counterparts in the La Rochelle and Lorient bases). Since the Germans could no longer conduct major submarine operations from the bases without a supply line, the SHAEF commander, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to simply bypass these ports, and the Allied armies focused their resources on the invasion of Germany. Saint-Nazaire and the other two German "pockets" remained under German control until after the last day of the war in Europe, 8 May 1945.

After World War II

The town of St. Nazaire was rebuilt in the late 1940s in a minimalist functional style.

The submarine base was used by the French Navy from 1945 to 1948. It then came under the control of various chemical companies and shipbuilders. , the French diesel submarine Espadon is moored within the U-boat pens. Tours of the submarine are available to the public.

After the construction of in 1961, the last Compagnie Générale Transatlantique liner and the subsequent closure of the Suez Canal, Chantiers de l'Atlantique began building large oil tankers, including , , and . A new dry dock (Basin C) was planned for the construction of tankers over 1,000,000 tonnes but this fell through with the reopening of the Suez Canal. was constructed at Chantiers de l'Atlantique in 2003.

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