Liberation of Boulogne (Operation Wellhit)


The need for transporting materiel from England to the front made Boulogne's port a strategic location.

Boulogne-sur-Mer was one of many towns along the coast of the English Channel to be given Fortress ("Festung") status by Hitler. Nearly 10,000 soldiers were stationed in the city and the German High Command thought they were willing to defend the city to a man.

The importance of the port and the need to quickly move troops and artillery soon gave Boulogne special importance. Unlike other Festung cities, it had to be taken, rather than merely placed under siege.

Le Havre had proved difficult to take, so it was very important for the liberation of Boulogne to be a success. This would produce a knock-on psychological effect on further planned assaults on Calais and Dunkirk.

The Canadian infantry was in charge of the Operation.

The French Resistance and evacuated civilians had provided very accurate information, yet bombing proved to be of no avail. The ground assault started on 17 September 1944 and lasted six days.

German troops put up plenty of resistance during the fighting, but once the situation became desperate, most defensive mainstays surrendered.

The operation came to an end with the capture of Wimereux and the taking of the Fort of La Crèche. The last two German defence positions, in Portel and Outreau, surrendered once the Fortress commander, General Heim, was captured on 22 September 1944.

German prisonners after Operation Wellhit, in streets of Boulogne, 1944. Public Domain

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