Saturday 29th August 2015 saw 19 members from both Jersey, Guernsey and the UK travel to St. Malo for a trip around the Harbour Defenses led by Neil Walker and Colin Isherwood.
The trip entitled “Hafenverteidigung - August 1944” (Harbour Defenses), was designed to build on last years “Die Zitadelle” trip and examine the “other side” of the harbour area in St. Malo, namely the area of Intra-Muros or the Walled City.
Descriptions of the German defenses in the area were covered during an illustrated ramble of which many members noted they had been to St. Malo many times in their life but didn’t fully appreciate the story that was all around them. This year again the packed lunch approach allowed more time for a small lecture to be given on the role of the US 83rd Division and specifically the US 330th Regiment with their assault on the Eastern approaches to St. Malo to develop the story from both the perspectives of the Allies and the Axis forces in the area.
More rambling, and with a carefully planning, access to the Ile du Grande Be about 100 meters offshore from the Walled City marked what is believe to be a first Official Visit by CIOS to “M.K.B Grand Be”. Much of the story of St. Malo always seems to focus on Die Zitadelle or Ile Cezembre, but much less is known about the Ile Du Grand Be. With a small footprint of just over half a square kilometer the amount of concrete poured is surprising, not least to be able to house 4 x 10.5cm cannons in casemates, a Leitstand and several flak, personnel and munitions bunkers in support.
A further on Island lecture was given about the construction, consolidation, action and finally capitulation of this small islet which had a very confusing and ironic wartime story.
Back to the Walled City and whilst following in the footsteps taken by Generalfeldmarschall Gerd Von Rundstedt (who visited the Ramparts of St Malo), further points such as the imprisonment of men from St. Malo in “Fort National” (again a small fort/island out at sea) and the resulting “Burning of St. Malo” that destroyed the City were discussed.
The final third of the day was a brief stroll inside the walls to highlight then and now photos against the destruction and indeed subsequent post war rebuilding the Walled City was forced to endure. Despite ferry delays earlier in the day the tour ended with enough time for everyone to enjoy a pre-ferry drink before a tired but definitely enthused group returned back to Jersey.
The feedback from travellers on the day was good and indeed Messers Walker and Isherwood had discussions on the Ferry back to Jersey of ideas for 2016……maybe!
The Society would like to thank Neil and Colin for organising this tour, which required a great deal of research and planning. Photos from the day can be viewed in an online photo album here.