logo


©2004-2019 F. Dörenberg, unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be used without permission from the author.


Latest page update: 1 November 2019 (added & used ref. 179)


red-blue line

BERNHARD INSTALLATION BE-5 AT ST.-MICHEL-MT.-MERCURE (France, dept. 85)

Map

Mid-May 2011, I visited the site at Saint-Michel-Mont-Mercure (off the D755 road, 9 km northwest of Pouzauges, 3 km northwest of St.-Michel-Mt.-Mercure). It is located on a high knoll, the "Les Justices" hill (where justice was rendered during the time of the druids). It is the highest point (≈290 m above sea level; ≈950 ft) in the Vendée region of France, on the Haute Bocage ridge. See this interactive topographical map (with Be-5 marker). From there, one has a beautiful free view in all directions, including the northeast towards the Atlantic, and beyond to England. About 60 mtrs to the northwest of the antenna base, there is a concrete revetment that may have been for a Flugabwehrkanone unit (also Fliegerabwehrkanone, a.k.a. "flak", anti-aircraft guns).

The dismantling of Be-2 was ordered on 22 June 1944 (ref. 179). The installation was strafed at least once (by two British or American aircraft on 15 August 1944, ref. 116).

From 1954 to 1958/59 (when France changed its role within NATO), the site was used by the US military as a wireless telecom station. These days, there is a cell-phone and FM broadcast transmitter installation.

Berhard station

Bernhard station Be-5 is marked on a map of Kdo. Flughafenbereich 8/XII (Laval)


This Berhard-station was the fourth to be discovered by the British, in aerial photos of September 1942 (ref. 174H). Those photos show three large huts (two with estimated size of 80x44 ft [24x13 m], one of 70x52 ft [21x16m]) located on the same knoll as the station. They form operational rooms and staff quarters. Similar to the other discovered Be-stations, there was a small antenna mast nearby, here on another knoll, 450 yards [410 m] to the southeast (see the photo below).

Berhard station

Fig. 81: RAF aerial photo of the St.-Michel-Mt.-Mercure site (19 September 1942)

(source: ref. 174H, reported monitoring mast location is marked with yellow circle)

Berhard station

Fig. 82: Satellite image of the St.-Michel-Mt.-Mercure site (2016)

(source: geoportal.gouv.fr; the mast location per ref. 174H is marked with a yellow circle)

Berhard station

Fig. 83: Aerial photo of the St.-Michel-Mt.-Mercure site (14 May 1950)

(source: geoportal.gouv.fr; full-size photo C1425-0021_1950_F1425-1725_0343, 11 MB)

Berhard station

Fig. 84: 1950s aerial photo of the Bernhard site at St.-Michel-Mt.-Mercure

(US-army built cabin is clearly visible across the concrete ring)

Berhard station

Fig. 85: The above 1950s aerial photo - with structures and roads/trails highlighted


The visitor-sign on the northwest side of the parking lot refers to it as a WW2 German radar. However, the text correctly calls it a "Bernhard" radio-navigation station, combined with an airborne printer. It quotes an antenna size of 25x25m and an antenna weight of 75 tons (both incorrect), and shows the picture of the installation at Bredstedt as well as a sketch made by the French resistance (Y. Rocard).

Berhard station

Fig. 86: Visitor sign near the parking lot


The concrete base of this Bernhard installation is nestled on a small hilltop. The hilltop is actually just a small granite outcrop with steep sides, and is not big enough for the complete ring and the round central building. Hence, a significant part of the ring is much taller than the Bernhard-rings placed on flat terrain. On the east side, the ring is about 3.7 meters tall. The ring is conical: slightly wider at the base than at the top - probably for stability reasons.

The photo below shows the ties of the rail track. At this particular site, practically all rail ties (UK: sleepers) are still in place, 120 in total. Here, only two out of every three ties have bolts sticking up for the track fasteners (rail-chairs). The bolts for the inside track are taller than those of the outside track. Also, one in three ties does not have mounting bolts, but mounting support plates. Again, the one for the inside track is taller than the one for the outside track. These plates do not have mounting bolts welded on top of them. The ties are sections of I-beam, about 15 cm wide, embedded into the concrete.

Berhard station

Fig. 87: The ties of the rail track and the walkway on the outside of the concrete ring


The photo above also shows a concrete walkway on the outside of the ring; it leads from one set of stairs to an other. The walkway has a raised edge that once supported handrails. On the center of the edge, there is a heavy metal strip about every 1.5 m. All strips have now been folded over. They probably served to fix in place the wooden posts of the handrail.

Berhard station

Fig. 88: Folded-over fastener strip for a post of the hand-rail around the walkway

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

The circular concrete base is about 1.5 m wide (≈ 5 ft). At some Bernhard sites, the top of the ring is flat, at others it is clearly rounded. Here, the top edges of the ring are chamfered. On the west side of the concrete ring, there are seven rectangular concrete blocks, that are placed radially against the base of the ring. They may have been foundations for the supports of a wooden continuation of the walkway between the stairs. The blocks do not touch the concrete ring, so they are not buttresses.

Berhard station

Fig. 89: Concrete blocks at the base of the ring

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

There are two sets of concrete stairs that lead to the top of the concrete base. The stairs are rather wide. The one on the south side has 13 steps, the one on the north side has 12 steps, with a bottom step that has a double-length tread. Close to the bottom of each set of stairs, there are metal conduits that go straight up against the concrete base - two on the south side, one on the north side.

Berhard station

Fig. 90: Stairs on the south side of the concrete ring

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

Berhard station

Fig. 91: Stairs on the north side of the concrete ring


Berhard station

Fig. 92: A regular local transformer station, about 50 m northeast of the ring

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

There are two large metal tubes that go up against the ring, near the stairs on the south side. The tubes pass through the ring, between the top two layers of concrete of the ring. It is fair to assume that they are part of the original installation. Near the stairs on the north side of the ring, there is only a single metal conduit.

Berhard station

Fig. 93: There are metal conduits near both stairs


A shielded cable runs through the left-hand tube on the south side. A single stranded (modern?) cable runs through the right-hand tube. Most likely, these tubes carried electrical power cables to the Bernhard system, from a power generator in one of the barracks to the southeast of the ring.

Berhard station

Fig. 94: Close-up of the cable conduits near the two stairs

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

Berhard station

Fig. 95: The single tube (north side) passes through the top layer of the concrete ring

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

The photo above shows that the ring has been filled in, and there are three rectangular openings. They may provide access to the original round building at the center of the ring. It is unclear at which point in time the ring was filled in. Probably not during the German time - it would have made it impossible to get equipment in and out of the small round building below the rotating antenna system. Post-war, the US-Army built a concrete bridge across the ring, with a single-level structure on top of it.

Berhard station

Fig. 96: Top-view diagram of the ring with the stairs, walkway, and conduits

(the blue rectangle is the post-war US-built structure)

Berhard station

Fig. 97: View from the northwest side of the ring - the ring is clearly on top of the knol

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

Berhard station

Fig. 98: View from the south side of the ring - concrete slab on top of the water reservoir is visible at the center of the photo

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

Berhard station

Fig. 99: The north side of the US-built structure across the ring

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

Berhard station

Fig. 100: The south side of the US-built structure across the ring

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)

The two photos above show stubs on the outer edge of the walkway on both sides of the structure. They are remnants of a guard rail - probably from when the time when the ring was not yet filled in. The photo below show that the US-Army also erected a handrail on the ties of the outside rail of the circular track. Some of the posts and bases are still there:

Berhard station

Fig. 101: Remnants of a hand rail, installed post-war by the US Army onto the bolts of the outside rail


Right next to the southeast side of the Bernhard-ring, there is a small concrete ancillary building. This building does not show up in the 1950 aerial photo above. It does show up in the 1950s aerial photo that was taken after the US military had modified the site. It has ventilation louvres, so it may have housed a power generator. This is corroborated by the fact that there is a 1.5 m wide rectangular concrete slab on the floor of this building, right behind each louvre.

Berhard station

Fig. 102: Post-war ancillary building near the concrete ring


Berhard station

Fig. 103: 1950s aerial photo - placement of the ancillary building, relative to the concrete ring


About a 100 meters to the southeast of the Bernhard-ring, next to the parking lot, the foundations of German barracks are still visible today:

Berhard station

Fig. 104: Concrete foundation of the barracks


Berhard station

Fig. 105: Concrete foundation of the barracks


Berhard station

Fig. 106: View from the east side of the barracks - US-built generator building and structure across the ring in the top right-hand corner

(photo ©2013 G. Chatry; used with permission)


REFERENCES

  • Ref. 116: personal mail exchanges with L. Sourisseau about eyewitness account, 14-24 October 2013.
  • Ref. 174: copy of items in file AIR 14/3594 ""Windjammer" station: photographs and interpretation reports. Includes vertical and low oblique aerial photographs of 'Windjammer' radar sites in Germany and France (1943/1944)". Items are in the collection of The National Archives; material with UK Crown Copyright, used in accordance with the Open Government License [pdf].
  • Summary of the contents of ref. 174A-174J.
  • Ref. 174A: Letter entitled "W/T Bergen/Belvedere" by Squadron Leader C.W. Swanell on behalf of the Group Captain commanding R.A.F. Station Medmenham to R.V. Jones (A.D.I. Science), dated 9th April 1943, 1 page + 1 photo
  • Ref. 174B: Aerial photo of station "Bergen/Belvedere" [The Netherlands], photo No. 3022, taken 22rd March 1943 by 541 Squadron
  • Ref. 174C: Letter entitled "W/T – Bergen/Belvedere" by Group Captain commanding R.A.F. Station Medmenham to R.V. Jones (A.D.I. Science), dated 9th April 1943, 1 page. (note: photos referenced in letter not on file)
  • Ref. 174D: Letter entitled "W/T Desvres/Le Bois Julien" on behalf of Group Captain commanding R.A.F. Station Medmenham to R.V. Jones (A.D.I. Science), dated 15th November 1942, 1 page + 2 photos.
  • Ref. 174E: Letter entitled "W/T: Desvres/Le Bois Julien" on behalf of Group Captain commanding R.A.F. Station Medmenham to R.V. Jones (A.D.I. Science), dated 29th March 1943, 1 page + 1 photo.
  • Ref. 174F: "Interpretation Report No. G. 308" dated 28th June 1942, of aerial photos taken over Desvres/Le-Bois-Julien at altitude of 20k ft during Sortie A/945 on 20th June 1942, 1 page + 1 photo.
  • Ref. 174G: "Interpretation report No. G.590" dated 6th October 1942, of aerial photo taken over locality Morlaix, W/T station Mt. St. Michel, at altitude of 12k ft during Sortie Q/21 on 24th September 1942, 2 pages + 1 photo.
  • Ref. 174H: Letter entitled "W/T: Pouzauges/St.Michel-Mont-Mercure" on behalf of Group Captain commanding R.A.F. Station Medmenham to Squadron Leader Whitehead (A.I.4), dated 29th March 1943, 1 page + 3 photos.
  • Ref. 174J: Photos No. 4065 and 4066 of station at St. Vaast / La Pernelle, taken 31st March 1943 from off shore. [station is fully, though vaguely, visible on horizon]
  • Ref. 179: "Votragsnotiz", draft presenter notes addressed to the General-Nachrichtenführer (Gen-Nafü), 3 September 1944, 3 pp.
  • Covers original plans for geographic coverage (France, German Reich) with Bernhard stations, state of completion of the various Be-stations, status of introduction of the Bernhard/Bernhardine method for night-fighters (Nachtjagd).
  • Source: Bundesarchiv (BArch) Freiburg/Germany (Signatur)  file nr. RL 2-V/6, used in accordance with "Erstinformation für Ihren Besuch im Bundesarchiv in Freiburg, Stand Juni 2016"

External links last checked: January 2019


red-blue line