Plage Bonaparte

In between St Quay Portrieux and Paimpol, in the Baie de St Brieuc, are found the tallest cliffs in Brittany at Plouha.  To the north lies L’Anse Cochat also known as “Plage Bonaparte”, which on initial viewing looks like a pretty beach and that is all.  In fact though this is not the case, as it is the site of some of the most memorable events of the Second World War, in this area.  Between January and August 1944 135 American and Canadian airmen who had been shot down over occupied France escaped to England with the assistance of the French resistance.  
In 1943 two French Canadians, Lucien Dumais and Raymond Labrosse arrived in the area to help co-ordinate the rescue of the airmen who had been shot down.  They were grouped in a house known as Maison d’Alphonse, which was eventually blown up by the Germans in July 1944, before being led across the Breton countryside to the beach where small boats were used to ferry them to British ships, which were waiting offshore.  The first escape was on 28th January 1944 when 18 airmen made it back to England from Brittany.   
Today as you paddle along the coast it would be easy to dismiss the broad sweep as just another beautiful Breton beach without being aware of the history of this short stretch of coast.   We had launched from the delightful small harbour at Port Moguer and were on a day trip to L’Ost Pic, a distinctive lighthouse to the north.  
On the early morning high water there was no beach showing but on the return on the afternoon low water there was a beautiful sandy beach with gentle surf rolling in.  With the bright February sunshine it was hard to imagine the events of 63 years earlier.
 Approaching Plage Bonaparte on the morning high water.
 Agnes just in front of the valley down to the beach.
 Approaching the small village of Brehec, our chosen lunch spot.
It always amazes me how pleasant picnics can be in Brittany, even during February.
This stretch of coast, to the south of L’Ost Pic is similar to so many stretches of the Breton coastline.  It is possible to feel quite isolated soon after launching, particularly during the winter months.
 When L’Ost Pic lighthouse was built, in 1894, it was the first lighthouse in France to have a couple appointed as the keepers.  In common with so many lighthouses in Brittany it was partially destroyed in 1944 but by 1948 it had been restored to its previous condition.
By the time we returned to our departure point the sun had moved into the south west making viewing difficult but the tide had also dropped exposing the sands across which so many allied airmen had escaped in the early months of 1944.