The ship graveyard
My new homeland is a region of seamens. Lorient’s origins goes back to 1666. At that time, the Compagnie des Indes orientales was just founded, 2 years ago actually, and decided the set its headquarters in this freshly created port. Later, in 1688, it was the Marine Royale’s turn to establish there, thanks to Colbert’s son. These marine activitées starded to decline at the beginning of the 19th century while fishing was growing…
WW2 highly damaged the city. In 1941 Germans who were occupying France built one of their largest submarine base on the island of Keroman, near the harbour of Lorient. Undoubtedly a strategic point to protect the Atlantic Wall of any Allies’ invasion try from the coast. In January 1943, civilians were evacuated when Winston Churchill had given the command of massive bombings. A rain of bombs falled on Lorient: around 90% of the city was detroyed. The submarine base remained intact in the middle of the ruined city.
After the Allies’ landing in 1944, Britain was entirely freed during August. Then Hitler ordered his troops to withdraw back to Brest, Saint-Nazaire and Lorient, three strategic ports. This was considered like one of the very last resisting source. After the war, the Keroman’s base was exploited by the French for its original purpose. During the late 1970’s, nuclear submarines replaced normal ones. Following this, the Army left the Keroman site and Lorient for some more adapted cities.
During the 1990’s people started thinking about a conversion plan for such a vast land. Bunkers were still preserved fistly because of the duty to remember, and also because of their €31 million destruction cost. Today the area is still dedicated to nautical activities with boathouses used for preparing racing multihulls and the Cité de la voile Eric Tabarly. On June 10, 2012 Lorient will host the Volvo Ocean Race final leg.
Lorient is still wide open on the ocean with its 5 ports: Keroman (2nd French fishing port in tonnage, 1rst in value-added), the commercial port of Kergoise (tanks, petrol, etc…), the military port, the marina and the travel port with around 500,000 passengers/year sailing for Groix islands and Belle île en mer.
At Kernevel’s ship graveyard, few wooden trawlers have drop their anchor forevermore. Those faded old boats tell their own crazy youth stories to any people ready to hear them. In the shade of a tree, leant back agaist a beached ship, one can contemplate the Lorient’s harbour and Keroman who survived witnessing all the city changes.
On a cool and sunny morning, I have put my lumberjack boots on, my marinière, my officer coat and put my cap on to walk in the middle of few wreckage. I relived nice adventures! Some mornings, at Kernevel’s graveyard, it is still pitching a lot…