Stp221 Arnika I Fort de la Creche
Huge Atlantikwall bunkers built on Napoleonic fort
Stp221 Arnika I Fort de la Creche site overview
What to see
Stp221 Arnika comprises three interlinked strongpoints situated on the high Pointe de La Crèche headland to the north of Boulogne-sur-Mer – and there’s a lot of concrete concentrated here!
Arnika II and III are on the cliff edge while Arnika I is located on the site of an old French fort around 200 metres inland from the coast, behind the two other sites.
All three were naval batteries established and manned by the German Navy and Arnika I is an extensive site mixing Napoleonic structures with Kriegsmarine bunkers. The original French fort was completed in 1879 to give protection to the city and port of Boulogne, and you can still walk through the original buildings, along with many German constructions from WW2.
These additional builds include three special construction casemates, anti-aircraft positions, open emplacements, and personnel bunkers.
The largest casemate here is a two storey special build for a 105mm gun located on the second floor, with a high-level defensive Tobruk incorporated in the structure too, although this could only be accessed via an external set of steel rungs built into the concrete walls.
Below the gun were several rooms for personnel and ammunition storage, plus a machine gun position which protected the rear entrance.
Today you can see the impact of an enormous explosion inside the casemate which has destroyed much of the external structural integrity too.
Two other large casemates flank this huge bunker, and both can be accessed from the front and rear. A walk through from the rear highlights how much of the actual structures are underground and you can see rooms for personnel and ammunition storage, plus defensive gun ports protecting the entrances. If you look carefully, you can even see writing on the wall warning the crew about smoking around the gun and ammunition.
Both feature large rooms for their 10.5cm guns which were mounted on pedestals and protected from above by the classic concrete hood you find on many Atlantikwall casemates.
In front of the southern casemate there’s a circular position which was one of the original locations for the long-range coastal guns.
Several of the fort’s original gun emplacements remain as does the barracks and personnel buildings and these are some of the highlights of a tour of the site.
The position was the scene of fierce battles during WW2, eventually being secured on September 22, 1944, by the Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment of Canada - to whom there is a memorial on site.
One of the most fascinating exhibits at the site is the 130mm (5inch) French naval gun which stands as a commemoration to the sailors who fell during the battle of Boulogne-sur-Mer as German forces swept across France in 1940s Blitzkrieg.
It was one of five guns aboard the French destroyer Chacal (Jackal) which was assigned to the Western Command to protect convoys delivering vital supplies. At the end of May 1940 the ship was sent to protect the French ports of Calais and Boulogne and bombarded advancing German troops until being badly damaged by artillery shells and bombing runs from Heinkel HE111 aircraft.
Rather than sinking, Chacal was beached near Ambleteuse/Wimereux.
Fort de la Creche is signposted off the roundabout leading to Route de Terlincthun on the road between Boulogne and Wimereux. You can see several of the WW2 casemates from the road, but the entrance is via a small gate off the main road.
More info at www.fortdelacreche.fr