Cherbourg is a town of 40,500 located on the top of the Cotentin Peninsula in France . Cherbourg is famous for its large port and action in and around the city during D Day in WW II . Most of the battle for the city took place in what is now General de Gaulle Square . Cherbourg also has a ferryport, with service to the English ports of Poole and Portsmouth and St Helier on Jersey and Ireland. Cherbourg Harbour , is the largest artificial harbour in the world. Cherbourg lacks a natural harbor, Cherbourg was converted into a major port by heroic efforts . A breakwater two and a half miles long was built two miles offshore . This was begun in 1783, with its central harbour wall was completed in 1853  Three forts were added to the central wall in 1860. Cherbourg had been a strategic stronghold for several centuries - its castle was first built in the 5th century to protect the whole width of the Cotentin Peninsula . The French navy still uses Cherbourg . For a good view of the port, go to Fort du Roule, which houses the Musee de Liberation . There are two chateauxclose the Cherbourg, the Renaissance era Tourlaville  where Alexis de Toqueville lived .and Nacqueville


View Larger Map 

 Map of Cherbourg


France map 

 Location of Cherbourg in France




History of Cherbourg


Cherbourg 1890


The Cotentin Peninsula was the first territory conquered by the Vikings or Normans, creating Normandy, in the early tenth century. in their 9th century invasion. They developed Cherbourg as a port.

During the Seven Years' War, the British briefly occupied the town after the Raid on Cherbourg in 1758. The British destroyed military buildings and warehouses before departing.



 Napoléon and Marie Louise attending the parade of the

squadron in Cherbourg, in 1811, by Louis-Philippe Crépin


In the Napoleonic era, the harbour was fortified to prevent British naval incursions. Underwater obstructions were sunk at intervals across the harbour entrance, and progressively replaced with piles of masonried rubble. The works were begun in 1784 and were not concluded until 1850, long after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. French documentary on the project below.


cherbourg fort 

Cherbourg Fort



La construction de la digue formant la rade de Cherbourg est une aventure extraordinaire initiée à la fin du 18e siècle par Louis XVI et achevée en 1858 par Napoléon III. Redécouvrez, à travers ce récit passionnant, les dessous de ce projet pharaonique qui devait assurer à la France une défense stratégique face aux ennemis anglais.



 USS Kearsarge vs CSS Alabama, 1863 off Cherbourg


On 19 June 1864, a naval engagement between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama, as part of the American Civil War, took place off Cherbourg. On June 14, Kearsarge finally caught up with Alabama as she was receiving repairs. On June 19, CSS Alabama, with nowhere else to go, ran up the Stars and Bars and exited the harbor to attack Kearsarge. She was escorted by the French Navy ironclad Couronne, whose mission was to ensure that the ensuing battle occurred outside the French harbor. The Alabama was hit and sank. In November 1984, the French Navy mine hunter Circé discovered a wreck under nearly 60 m (200 ft) of water off Cherbourg.


RMS Titanic at Cherbourg : Night Shot 

RMS Titanic at Cherbourg, heading out to sea April 10, 1912


On 31 July 1909, Tsar Nicholas II and French president Armand Fallières met officially in Cherbourg to reinforce the Franco-Russian Alliance. Cherbourg was the first stop of RMS Titanic after it left Southampton, England.


Cherbourg 1870


Cherbourg 1880


French submarine base, Cherbourg, pre WWI


Cherbourg harbour World War 1



Cherbourg in World War 2


p000892 avenue de paris à  Cherbourg 

 Cherbourg in WW2 and now


p013300 rue du Val de Saire à Cherbourg 

A Cherbourg street during WW2 and the same street today


During World War II, the Germans occupied the north of France and fortified the coastline against invasion. The Battle of Cherbourg, fought by the Allies in June 1944 against the Germans following the Normandy Invasion, ended with the Allies capturing the city on 30 June. The Battle of Cherbourg was part of the Battle of Normandy during World War II. It was fought immediately after the successful Allied landings on June 6, 1944. American troops isolated and captured the fortified port, which was considered vital to the campaign in Western Europe, in a hard-fought month long campaignThe French celebrated their liberation from the German occupation. Erwin Rommel and other commanders wished to withdraw their troops in good order into the Atlantic Wall fortifications of Cherbourg, where they could have withstood a siege for some time. Adolf Hitler, issuing orders from his headquarters in East Prussia, demanded that they hold their present lines even though this risked disaster.

The German garrison commander, Lieutenant General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, had 21,000 men but many of these were hastily drafted naval personnel or from labour units. The fighting troops who had retreated to Cherbourg (including the remnants of von Schlieben's own Division, the 709th), were tired and disorganised. Food, fuel and ammunition were short. The Luftwaffe dropped a few supplies, but these were mostly items such as Iron Crosses, intended to bolster the garrison's morale. Nevertheless, von Schlieben rejected a summons to surrender and began carrying out demolitions to deny the port to the Allies. Collins launched a general assault on June 22. Resistance was stiff at first, but the Americans slowly cleared the Germans from their bunkers and concrete pillboxes. Allied Naval ships bombarded fortifications near the city on June 25. On June 26, the 79th Division captured Fort du Roule, which dominated the city and its defenses. This finished any organised defense. Von Schlieben was captured. The harbor fortifications and the Arsenal surrendered on June 29, after a ruse by Allied officers, Capt Blazzard and Col Teague, who convince the German Officers to surrender the Peninsula, bluffing about their manpower and ordnance. Some German troops cut off outside the defenses held out until July 1.


German gun emplacement, Cherbourg 1944


The Germans had so thoroughly wrecked and mined Cherbourg that Hitler awarded the Knight's Cross to Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke the day after he surrendered for "a feat unprecedented in the annals of coastal defense."The port was not brought into limited use until the middle of August

Post war recovery, Cherbourg, 1964





 Opening credits from Jaques Demy's film (1964) "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" . Music by Michel Legrand.Madame Emery and her 17-year-old daughter Geneviève (Deneuve) sell umbrellas at their tiny boutique in the coastal town of Cherbourg in Normandy, France.


Things to see in Cherbourg


Cherbourg (7) 

 Basilica of the Holy Trinity



 Cherbourg Ocean Museum, now a naval museum and aquarium .


Cité de la Mer: le Redoutable 

 The Redoutable, first SSBN submarine of the French Navy, now a museum and the largest submarine in the world open to the public. The Cité de la Mer ("city of the sea") is a maritime museum in Cherbourg


Norman Milkmaid 

 Musée Thomas Henry 300 works by French and European

artists . Above is 'Norman Milkmaid' by Robert L. Herbert


Cherbourg - Fort du Roule 

 Fort du Roule sits on a hill overlooking Cherbourg. A World War II museum is housed in the old fort.


Fort de l'Ouest 

 Fort de l'Ouest


La Porte du Jardin 

 The gate to the Jardin botanique de la Roche Fauconnière in Cherbourg, a private botanical garden


Le Trident 

Le Trident theatre








web statistics