Sottevast V2 launch site
Massive rocket storage and launch facility in Normandy
Sottevast V2 launch site location
What to see
Located around 10km south of Cherbourg between the villages of Sottevast and Brix, this rural site was planned to be one of the largest V2 rocket storage and launch facilities ever built and would have brought terror to the southeast of England had it become operational.
Known as Reservelager West, it was one of four sprawling V2 facilities Hitler ordered to be built in France from 1943 onwards. Two buildings were earmarked for Normandy at Sottevast and Brecourt and two in the Pas de Calais region, the dome-shaped La Couple at Wizernes and the giant cube-like Blockhaus d’Eperlecques at Watten.
Construction began at Sottevast in July 1943 with a plan to create an L-shaped building of 30m by 200m long with a launch area in the middle. The plans indicate it was built to store up to 300 V2 rockets.
Following bombing raids on bunker sites, the Organisation Todt began building the bunker in a style known as ‘Verbunkerung’ where the roof – up to 5m thick of steel reinforced concrete – would be constructed first and then excavation would take place below under the protection of the roof.
By this time the Allied air forces had the control of the skies and bombing raids took place over all the four major V2 sites from August 1943 onwards as part of Operation Crossbow. Sottevast received the most attention in April and May 1944.
By the time the Allied forces landed in Normandy in June 1944, the site was far from being completed and it was captured by the US 79th Infantry Division just a few days after D-Day. Following high profile photo opportunity visits by Generals Dwight D Eisenhower and Omar Bradley the US Engineers began filling in the 20m deep excavations, burying the site.
Today the Sottevast V2 site is a working dairy farm and is not accessible to the public. We received access-all-areas permission to photograph and film the site, including via our drone, for which we are grateful.
On the ground you can see the L-shaped roof and evidence of the excavations below the thick roof while the inside of the ‘L’ – where the launch platform would have stood - now features a large barn for cattle and a storage area for winter feeds.
Climbing up on to the roof reveals lots of left-over debris from the construction including steel rebar and lengths of narrow gauge railway lines which would have helped to transport materials around the building site.