Montebourg-Ecausseville

Validation date: 23 09 2013
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49°27'06"N 001°22'50"W

runway: grass field

Air field Montebourg-Ecausseville (french: aerostation de Montebourg-Ecausseville) was an air station in Normandy, France.
The air field was built between January and August 1917 as an airship station for airships battling German U-boats in the English Channel (french: Pas-de-Calais). A 150feet long, 20 feet wide and 22 feet high wooden hangar was built to host the SS-49/VA-3 Sea Wasp and the airships Astra-Torrès, Zodiac and Chalais-Meudon. By October the millitary decided to build a second hangar, this time of concrete, large nough to house a Zd3-type airship. Construction of this hangar ran from 112 November 1917 until 18 August 1919. 2540 locally produced tiles were laid on a row of 25 arches to form a 150x24meter large hangar floor with a heigth of 28 meters. Its large double doors, requiring 6 men to open them, were put on the northwest side of the hangar in 1920. By the time it was finished it was already obsolete however, and an airship only docked here once, in 1922. The property was used as an airstation for aircraft flying between Cherbourg and Paris.


Map of the hangar area as it was ca. 1920 (aerobase.fr).


Model of the airfield (source).

The hangars were struck off by the military in 1927 and the wooden hangar was torn down in 1933 after it was severely damaged by a storm in 1931. In 1939 the other one was handed over to the naval artillery in Cherbourg. They stationed 200 men and 2 mobile batteries of 155mm and 4 mobile batteries of 90mm at the station. During the German occupation the hangar lost its two rolling doors, which were removed by blowtorch.


The hangar after the Germans had removed the doors (aerobase.fr)

After the Allied invasion in 1944 the Americans used it as a repair facilities for all kinds of vehicles, ranging from trucks to tanks. In 1946, the French Navy planned to sell the site, but then decided to use it as a warehouse for field hospitals and various spare parts for ships and aircraft until 1994. Closing the hangar took until 1953, when it was closed with a concrete block.
Between 1967 and 1969, part of the hangar is reserved for the Military Applications of the Atomic Energy Commission, for the development of the balloons for the first H-bomb testing at French Mururoa. To have a sufficient height, a pit was built inside the hangar. During this period, security was reinforced by constructing additional fencing around the hangar and two guard posts with a search light coupled with a machine gun turret.

In 1999, the French-American Association for Normandy Airfields of the 9th Air Force, together with the Association of Friends of the airship hangar at Écauseville (link in French, or translated with Google), acquired the site. The organisations attempt to promote its heritage and have managed to register it as a monument by order of 30 August 2000. The hangar, the last building of its kind since the destruction of those built at Brest, Orly and Rochefort, was classified as a historical monument by decree of 7 January 2003. The joint communities of Manche bought the hangar in 2008, with the Association of Friends retaining its mission. The hangar was visited by about 5000 people in 2010, against 3,500 the previous year.


The hangar in July 2007 (Wikipedia)