What was the V-3 Cannon and the Fortress of Mimoyecques?
Most people interested in military history or alive in the war will be familiar with the V-1 ‘Doodlebug’ and the V-2 rocket-bomb used during the to bomb England over the channel in the late war. Both of these bombs were unmanned rocket-propelled aircraft which were launched from ramps in German-controlled Europe, homed in on towns and cities all over England – particularly the south. Fewer people know that a third German wonder-weapon was being developed at the end of the Second World war and fortunately never saw use. The V-3 Cannon was actually a giant set of five-barrelled ‘guns’ designed to fire underground in Mimoyecques, Northern France, and land on London. The site was built in 1943 featuring a number of tunnels and lift shafts going deep underground. Tests proved that the gun would need rethinking due to ruptured barrels, and the set of guns working were reduced from five to three. How was the gun able to fire far enough to cross the English Channel? Each barrel was lined with sets of explosives charges running in sets of chambers, designed to go off just behind the projectile as it fired hence increasing the pressure at which the projectile exited. Before it could be fired on London, allied bombing mission by the ‘Dambusters’ squadron destroyed the functionality of the site on 6th June 1944 using ‘Tallboy’ bombs; designed to penetrate through the thick concrete cap over the front of the barrels where they reached the ground. This was part of ‘Operation Crossbow’; the allied effort to destroy as much of Germany’s long-range weapons programme as possible. Part of the tunnels are now open to the public as a museum.
What happened to the complex after the war?
Only a small part of the complex remains open today. Many of the first-floor tunnels are closed off or collapsed due to the allied bombings and decay. The two lower levels remain hidden incredibly deep underground. It is unclear as to whether anyone has even explored lower in recent times, although the lowest level where the breach of the gun was (where the projectile was loaded) was destroyed by engineers after the war – it is filled with rubble.
What can I see at Mimoyecques today?
The visible remains today are still incredible. The sheer vast scale of the tunnels impresses the ambition and scope of Nazi German technology at such a short turbulent time during the war; and then to think this would’ve continued for miles both through and under the ground is incredible. On the surface, one of the barrelled gun muzzles is still visible. You can also drive around to the back of the site and explore the bombed surface of concrete and craters, although unfortunately we were unable to do this. There is also a museum near the entrance which is well worth looking at for an introduction into the site.