is a peninsula of the roadstead of Brest
The roadstead of Brest is a roadstead or bay located in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. The surface area is about 180 km² . The port of Brest is located on its northern edge and one of the two French naval bases...
. It is the base of the SNLE, the French ballistic missile submarines, and as such one of the most secretive and heavily defended places in France.
Île Longue is a peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....
on the commune of Crozon
Crozon is a commune in the Finistère department of Brittany in north-western France.Crozon is located on the Crozon peninsula on the west coast of Finistère. It is bordered by the communes of Camaret-sur-Mer to the west, Roscanvel to the northwest, Lanvéoc to the north, Landévennec to the...
, attached to the Crozon peninsula. its altitude is 42 metres. It is located at 48°18'07.6"N 4°30'35.57"W.
Originally the isthmus was a mere sand bank, and crossing was only possible at low tide. During the 19th century, it was improved with a stone pathway. During the construction of the strategic base (1967–1972), it was widened, made insubmersible, and changed into a parking space.
The peninsula is a stone plateau surrounded by cliffs. It harbours several water springs, which made human habitat possible. In the 19th century, three villages were built on the peninsula: Kernalleguen (less than a kilometre of the isthmus), Kermeur (1.5 km of the isthmus) and Bothuelc'h, slightly North.
Exploitation of porphyry
Porphyry is a variety of igneous rock consisting of large-grained crystals, such as feldspar or quartz, dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass. The larger crystals are called phenocrysts...
started in the 18th century. By the end of the 19th century, half a million cobblestones were produced each year. Up to eleven quarries were exploited around the peninsula. The largest, Vengleuz Braz, was located west from Kermeur.
With its cliffs, local water resources, isthmus crossable only at low tide and its location defending Brest harbour, Île Longue is an easily defendable, strategic location. It was fortified by Vauban and Dajot as to render the roadstead impossible to hold by an enemy fleet and to allow a counter-attack against an enemy landing party attempting to seize Quélern
Quélern is a hamlet in Roscanvel, in the department of Finistère , in western France.-Fortified lines:The Quélern lines defended the entrance to the goulet de Brest against capture from behind the defences of the Roscanvel peninsula. They are 1.22 km long and form the only surviving non-urban...
Dajot had a fort constructed at the top of the peninsula around 1776. It featured a hemicircular lower battery with small buildings protected by a ditch, with a bastion
A bastion, or a bulwark, is a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification, situated in both corners of a straight wall , facilitating active defence against assaulting troops...
and a drawbridge
A drawbridge is a type of movable bridge typically associated with the entrance of a castle surrounded by a moat. The term is often used to describe all different types of movable bridges, like bascule bridges and lift bridges.-Castle drawbridges:...
In 1879, a wall was built South of the peninsula, as to defend it against the land. It featured a drawbridge defended by a
casemate and two bastions. Remains of the main gate and of the casemate still exist, but are enclosed in the military area, and not accessible to the general public.
First World War
From 1914 to 1919, Île Longue was used as an internment camp for German citizens captured after the seizure of the ship Nieuw Amsterdam
, intercepted by the French 2nd Light Squadron on the 2 September 1914.
From the 3 September to the 23, the 1500 passengers were interned at Crozon fort and in Brest; from the 4 November, they were transferred to a camp built on Île Longue for the occasion. The last prisoners were released on the 31st December 1919.
Second World War
During the occupation, the Germans used Île Longue as an anti-aircraft battery, which remained active until 1944. Megalithic monuments were destroyed by the construction of bunkers.
Île Longue strategic submarine base
In 1965, President Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....
chose Île Longue as home for the sea-based component of the Force de frappe
The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence...
. The place was chosen because it was close to a large harbour, yet distant enough to stay out of the public's eye, and was easily controlled and defended.
Work began in 1967 and took 5 years. The peninsula was completely changed, as the isthmus was widened and consolidated, and the peninsula itself gained 30 hectare
The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...
s. Two dry docks were built, as well as numerous habitation, engineering and defence buildings.
In 1972, the base was made operational and Le Redoutable
departed for her first patrol. Île Longue has been the base of the SNLE of the Force Océanique Stratégique
The Force océanique stratégique is the ballistic missile submarine force of the French Navy. It is one of the two components of the submarine forces of the French Navy and the sea-based component of the French nuclear deterrent.- History :The FOST was created in the early 1960s, around the need...
ever since .
Maintenance of the submarines is done at Île Longue, as well as storage of the nuclear components (warheads and fuel bars). Chemical pyrotechnics for the missiles and conventional warheads are stored in Guenvénez, 4 km away.
The base is divided into three colour-coded zones:
- Zone Blue comprises the security installations and personnel, including the fire department and the Fusiliers Marins responsible for the defence of the site. This zone also comprises offices and catering.
- Zone Red encompasses the pyrotechnics and bunkers to hold nuclear warheads.
- Zone Yellow encompasses the harbour and submarine installations, notably two roofed 200-metre long docks. A 170-metre long bunker between the two docks is used to load and unload nuclear materials.
Since 2006, work has been undertaken at Île Longue to prepare the base for the new M51 SLBM
The M51 SLBM is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, and deployed with the French Navy. Designed to replace the M45 SLBM The M51 SLBM is a submarine-launched ballistic missile, built by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, and deployed with the French...
External links French Ministry of Defence Satellite photographs
on Google Maps
Google Maps is a web mapping service application and technology provided by Google, free , that powers many map-based services, including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder, Google Transit, and maps embedded on third-party websites via the Google Maps API...