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SAUMUR SIGNAL DEPOT - A NOSTALGIC TRIP BACK

This site was developed primarily for the interest of the many soldiers and dependents who were stationed at the US Army 7794th Saumur Signal Depot at Saumur, France. The photographs were taken of this army base and of Saumur during the seven return visits I made in 1978, 1984, twice in 1999, 2001, 2004 and last in 2007. The army base was shut down and given to the French in 1966 along with about 40 other bases. Some bases were taken over by the French army but most, including Saumur, were taken over by civilian authorities. Today, the camp is administered by the village of Varrains and known by the residents simply as Les Ifs or Camp Américain.
       Saumur is a beautiful, progressive town straddling the Loire river in the middle of the Loire valley in central France. In the 50's it seemed to be a sleepy little town and like most of France was trying to recover fully from the effects of world war II. Today it is a rejuvenated city of 30,000 that attracts many tourists because of its beauty and charm. I consider Saumur to be more my hometown than my original hometown and I return whenever possible.
      Saumur and the surrounding area has changed a lot in 50 years. The downtown and some of the side streets off the main square have been revamped and modernized as you can see in the photos. Some of the buildings on side streets have been remodeled but generally follow the present-day French practice of redoing the outside with new material while retaining the original historical facade. 
      A highway was built in 1972 which comes from the north, crosses the Loire over a new bridge, passes just to the west of the Calvary Academy and then south towards Montreuil-Bellay. Because of new road construction the old army shuttle bus route no longer exists. This makes orientation difficult for anyone trying to follow the old bus route from Saumur to the depot or to even find the depot. I have received e-mails from veterans who revisited Saumur and could not find the base. If this ever happens to you, start at the downtown Saumur square and head south on Rue d'Oléans which will become Rue du Maréchal-LeClerc. Part of this street is one-way so you will need to go around that. Turn left just before the bridge on Boulevard de la Marne. This will take you past a gas station on your left and the Varrains Catholic church on your right. Turn left just past the gas station on to a local road. Then take the first right and you will be on the street that passes the main gate.
      The Saumur Signal Depot is barely recognizable to any ex-GIs visiting today. There is no evidence remaining that it was once a US Army base. Until the 1980's the base was completely abandoned. Today, the administration building is used as a mechanics shop with a garage door installed on one side. The first floor where the Administrative Offices once were is loaded with cars, boats and repair machinery. The interior has been gutted with two or three rooms on each floor. There is no interior evidence of its once being a barracks. Even the toilets and showers are gone. The maintenance barracks building is used by a builder for storing building supplies. The mess hall is still used as a food preparation center and can be rented from the city for special occasions. The gym is still being used as a gym and tennis courts have been added at the rear. The interior of the gym still looks the same. The motor pool and fire house are gone. 
      The bowling alley was enlarged with an octagon addition and the lanes have been removed. The officers club is in very good condition. Both can also be rented for social occasions. The stone buildings that lined the walkway from the chateau to the movie theater are now a private home used only a few months each year as a summer home. Only the concrete bases remain to mark where the EM Club once stood. The movie theater is there but looks abandoned and structurally unsound. The quadrangle area is not used for anything except random parking. In one of the pictures my rental Renault is parked at about where the flag poles once were.
      The chateau has been sub-divided into several apartments, mainly used by students. I talked with some of the residents and none were aware that it was once an army post. The front gate and guard shack are no longer there. There is a house at the guard shack area which houses the complex concierge. There is a gypsy gate installed at the entrance to discourage overnight camping.
      The French former depot workers have formed a social organization and meet annually. The last reunion was held in September, 2008 at the French Calvary School. Most local residents under age 50 don't remember the US Army being there except that they remember their parents speaking about it when they were small children. Their most vivid memory is that of large cars on the streets. E-mail from veterans and dependants all relate fond memories of their time in Saumur.
      I want to thank all the donors of information and photos, especially Bill Messner and his wife, Josie, for always being a gracious hosts and providing me with additional information. Bill was stationed in Saumur during the 60's and now lives in Saumur. In 1999, 2001 and 2004 Bill took me on a long tour of the region and filled in a lot of the blanks for me.
      It requires a lot of time, effort and expense to develop a site like this. The interest shown by so many individuals has made it all worth it. Some have even sent a contribution to defray the expense. For this action I am grateful, not only in the monetary sense but in the profound interest that this action represents.

My thanks to all of you.

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Last update February 1, 2014



Click HERE for a virtual visit to the Saumur Signal Depot as it is today. 
READ THE FOLLOWING FIRST:
After the site opens you will be standing on the Rue des Caves.
Advance the Peg Man forward to the junction of four streets: Grande Rue, Les Frogere, Les Ifs, and Rue des Caves. At that point you will see part of the SSD on the left. Turn and look up Grande Rue. On the right will be the SSD. It is possible to advance up to the main gate by clicking on the white arrows.

 

 


Click HERE to take a virtual summer stroll around Saumur's main square where the Army bus stop was located. Move around town by the left mouse button. Go high def by clicking on the expansion icon in the upper right corner. Look at some photos around town by clicking on the Photo icon in the upper right. It's possible to explore areas all over Saumur by moving the Peg Man into the blue lines in the frame to the right of the street display.


 


Click HERE for driving instructions from downtown Saumur to the Depot

 


Saumur Signal Depot Satellite Photo 2010

Saumur Panarama