Fort de la Conchée

To the north of St Malo is an area of deep water from which a fleet could bombard the town and the harbour. To approach from the north large ships must pass through a channel called the Fosse aux Normands. In this channel ships could enter the bay out of effective range of the mainland and batteries on the Ile Cézembre. Vauban and Garangeau's solution was to build a fort on the Conchée rock next to the Fosse aux Normands. The top of the rock was only a few metres above the water at high tide, which made construction difficult.

The fort was a two storey structure built of granite bocks. The lower level was made of arched bomb-proof casemates, so that the isolated garrison could withstand a sustained bombardment from enemy ships. There were more guns and a barrack building on the open upper terrace.

The first stage of construction was to establish a foundation on the rock and build storehouses and accommodation for the workers. In 1693, when the fort was still in the early stages of construction, an English fleet arrived to attack St Malo. They sailed through the Fosse aux Normands and bombarded the town. The English landed on Conchée and took the workers prisoner. Recognising how powerful the fort would be, they slighted the work as much as they could before they left.

In 1694, reviewing the defences of St Malo, Vauban ordered the construction of the Fort de la Varde (also called the Fort d'Arboulé) on the mainland opposite la Conchée so that ships in the Fosse aux Normands could be caught in a cross-fire between the two forts.

In 1695 an Anglo-Dutch fleet returned to St Malo, but by this stage there were 10 guns mounted in Fort de la Conchée, although the it was still not finished. The Allies attempted to destroy the fort with bomb vessels and fireships, but without success. The Allied fleet continued their attack on the town, but their ships were heavily damaged by the guns in la Conchée and the other forts, and they were forced to retreat.

After this time the design for the fort was reduced in size for reasons of cost, being about two-thirds of the original planned size. The planned two-storey barrack building was reduced in size and built as only a single storey. The fort was finally finished in 1705.

Vauban wrote that the garrisons of the outlying forts Fort Harbour and la Conchée should be relieved regularly because of their isolated positions. The soldiers were to be provided with fishing rods to give them something to do when off-duty and to supplement their diet.

Visiting Fort la Conchée

Fort La Conchée was damaged in the Second World War when it was used as an artillery target, although it proved very strong when hit by explosive shells. Recently however, some restoration work has been carried out. The building on top of the fort has been partially rebuilt and part of the walls were restored. There is still much work to be done and the war damage can clearly be seen from the outside. Perhaps one day in the future it will be possible to visit Fort la Conchée from St Malo.

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