Mulberry harbour

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Mulberry harbour
The Mulberry artificial harbour off Arromanches in Normandy, September 1944. BU1024.jpg
View of the Mulberry B harbour "Port Winston" at Arromanches in September 1944
Location Arromanches and Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
Coordinates 49°20′51″N0°38′02″W / 49.3475°N 0.6340°W / 49.3475; -0.6340 Coordinates: 49°20′51″N0°38′02″W / 49.3475°N 0.6340°W / 49.3475; -0.6340
OpenedJune 1944
ClosedMarch 1945
TypeTemporary portable harbour
PurposeMilitary equipment, stores and personnel

Mulberry harbours were temporary portable harbours developed by the United Kingdom during the Second World War to facilitate the rapid offloading of cargo onto beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. After the Allies successfully held beachheads following D-Day, two prefabricated harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel from Britain with the invading army and assembled off Omaha Beach (Mulberry "A") and Gold Beach (Mulberry "B"). [1] [2]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Invasion of Normandy Invasion and establishment of Western Allied forces in Normandy during WWII

The Western Allies of World War II launched the largest amphibious invasion in history when they attacked German positions at Normandy, located on the northern coast of France, on 6 June 1944. The invaders were able to establish a beachhead as part of Operation Overlord after a successful "D-Day", the first day of the invasion.

English Channel Arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France

The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Southern England from northern France and links to the southern part of the North Sea by the Strait of Dover at its northeastern end. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.


The Mulberry harbours were to be used until major French ports could be captured and brought back into use after repair of the inevitable sabotage by German defenders. The first choice, Cherbourg, was captured towards the end of July 1944 but the port facilities were found to have been expertly wrecked, then booby-trapped. Although Antwerp in Belgium was captured on 4 September 1944, the Port of Antwerp was not opened until 28 November as the approaches to the port were held by the Germans until the (delayed) Battle of the Scheldt was won. Two French ports were eventually available; the port of Boulogne on 14 October after Operation Wellhit and the port of Calais in November after Operation Undergo. Montgomery insisted that the First Canadian Army clear the German garrisons in Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk (which was held until 9 May 1945) first before the Scheldt although the French ports were "resolutely defended" and had all suffered demolitions so would not be navigable for some time. [3] The success of Operation Dragoon meant that the southern French ports of Marseille and Toulon were available in October.

Port of Antwerp Maritime commercial facility in Antwerp, Belgium

The Port of Antwerp in Flanders, Belgium, is a port in the heart of Europe accessible to capesize ships. It is Europe’s second-largest seaport, after Rotterdam. Antwerp stands at the upper end of the tidal estuary of the Scheldt. The estuary is navigable by ships of more than 100,000 Gross Tons as far as 80 km inland. Like Hamburg, the Port of Antwerp's inland location provides a more central location in Europe than the majority of North Sea ports. Antwerp's docks are connected to the hinterland by rail, road, and river and canal waterways. As a result, the port of Antwerp has become one of Europe's largest seaports, ranking second behind Rotterdam by total freight shipped. Its international rankings vary from 11th to 20th (AAPA).

Battle of the Scheldt battle in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II

The Battle of the Scheldt in World War II was a series of military operations led by the First Canadian Army, with Canadian, Polish and British units attached, to open up the shipping route to Antwerp so that its port could be used to supply the Allies in north-west Europe. Under acting command of the First Canadian's Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, the battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands from October 2 to November 8, 1944.

Operation Wellhit

Operation Wellhit was the Second World War operation by the 3rd Canadian Division to take the fortified port of Boulogne in northern France. At first, the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade had hoped to take Boulogne as part of its advance up the coast. The defences, however, brought them to a halt 5 miles (8.0 km) from the city.

The harbour at Gold Beach was used for 10 months after D-Day and over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies were landed before it was fully decommissioned. The still only partially-completed Mulberry harbour at Omaha Beach was damaged on 19 June by a violent storm that suddenly arrived from the north-east. After three days the storm finally abated and damage was found to be so severe that the harbour had to be abandoned.

Gold Beach Code name for one of the zones for amphibious landings in Northern France on D-Day, 6 June 1944

Gold, commonly known as Gold Beach, was the code name for one of the five areas of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during the Second World War. Gold, the central of the five areas, was located between Port-en-Bessin on the west and La Rivière on the east. High cliffs at the western end of the zone meant that the landings took place on the flat section between Le Hamel and La Rivière, in the sectors code-named Jig and King. Taking Gold was to be the responsibility of the British Army, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided by the Royal Navy as well as elements from the Dutch, Polish and other Allied navies.

Omaha Beach Code name for one of the zones for amphibious landings in Northern France on D-Day, 6 June 1944

Omaha, commonly known as Omaha Beach, was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during World War II. "Omaha" refers to a 8 kilometers (5 mi) section of the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary and with an estimated 150-foot (45 m) tall cliffs. Landings here were necessary to link the British landings to the east at Gold with the American landing to the west at Utah, thus providing a continuous lodgement on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided predominantly by the United States Navy and Coast Guard, with contributions from the British, Canadian, and Free French navies.


The Dieppe Raid of 1942 had shown that the Allies could not rely on being able to penetrate the Atlantic Wall to capture a port on the north French coast. The problem was that large ocean-going ships of the type needed to transport heavy and bulky cargoes and stores needed sufficient depth of water under their keels, together with dockside cranes, to off-load their cargo and this was not available except at the already heavily-defended French harbours. Thus, the Mulberries were created to provide the port facilities necessary to offload the thousands of men and vehicles, and tons of supplies necessary to sustain Operation Overlord and the Battle of Normandy. The harbours were made up of all the elements one would expect of any harbour: breakwater, piers, roadways etc.

Dieppe Raid World War II battle on north coast of France

Operation Jubilee, more commonly referred to as the Dieppe Raid, was an Allied assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France, on 19 August 1942, during the Second World War. The main assault lasted less than six hours until strong German defences and mounting Allied losses forced its commanders to call a retreat.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Atlantic Wall extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany

The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal defence and fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944, along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom, during World War II. The manning and operation of the Atlantic Wall was administratively overseen by the German Army, with some support from Luftwaffe ground forces. The Kriegsmarine maintained a separate coastal defence network, organised into a number of sea defence zones.

Design and development

Aerial view of Mulberry harbour "B" at Arromanches (October 27, 1944) MulberryB - Piers.jpg
Aerial view of Mulberry harbour "B" at Arromanches (October 27, 1944)

An early idea for temporary harbours was sketched by Winston Churchill in a 1915 memo to Lloyd George. This memo was for artificial harbours to be created off the German islands of Borkum and Sylt. No further investigation was made and the memo was filed away. [4] In 1940 the civil engineer Guy Maunsell wrote to the War Office with a proposal for an artificial harbour, but the idea was not at first adopted. [5]

Winston Churchill former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was a member of the Liberal Party.

Borkum Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Borkum is an island and a municipality in the Leer District in Lower Saxony, northwestern Germany. It is situated east of Rottumeroog and west of Juist.

Sylt German island

Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district, Schleswig-Holstein, and well known for the distinctive shape of its shoreline. It belongs to the North Frisian Islands and is the largest island in North Frisia. The northernmost island of Germany, it is known for its tourist resorts, notably Westerland, Kampen and Wenningstedt-Braderup, as well as for its 40-kilometre-long (25-mile) sandy beach. It is frequently covered by the media in connection with its exposed situation in the North Sea and its ongoing loss of land during storm tides. Since 1927, Sylt has been connected to the mainland by the Hindenburgdamm causeway. In latter years, it has been a resort for the German jet set and tourists in search of occasional celebrity sightings.

Winston Churchill issued his memo 'Piers for use on beaches' on 30 May 1942, apparently in some frustration at the lack of progress being made on finding a solution to the temporary harbour problem. [6] Between 17 June and 6 August 1942, Hugh Iorys Hughes submitted a design concept for artificial harbours to the War Office. [7]

Hugh Iorys Hughes was a Welsh civil engineer and keen yachtsman who submitted ideas to the War Office for the design of the Mulberry harbours used in Operation Overlord.

At a meeting following the Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942, Vice-Admiral John Hughes-Hallett (the naval commander for the Dieppe Raid) declared that if a port could not be captured, then one should be taken across the Channel. Hughes-Hallett had the support of Churchill. The concept of Mulberry harbours began to take shape when Hughes-Hallett moved to be Naval Chief of Staff to the Overlord planners.

In the autumn of 1942, the Chief of Combined Operations Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, outlined the requirement for piers at least a mile long at which a continuous stream of supplies could be handled, including a pier head capable of handling 2,000-ton ships.

In July 1943 a committee of eminent civil engineers consisting of Colin R White (Chairman), J D C Couper, J A Cochrane, R D Gwyther and Lt. Col. Ivor Bell was established to advise on how a number of selected sites on the French coastline could be converted into sheltered harbours. The committee initially investigated the use of compressed air breakwaters before eventually deciding on blockships and caissons. [8]


In August and September 1943 a trial of three competing designs for the cargo-handling jetties was set up together with a test of a compressed air breakwater. The pier designs were by:

Prototypes of each of the designs were built and tested at Rigg Bay on the Solway Firth. The tests revealed various problems (the "Swiss Roll" would only take a maximum of a 7-ton truck in the Atlantic swell). However the final choice of design was determined by a storm during which the "Hippos" were undermined causing the "Crocodile" bridge spans to fail and the Swiss Roll was washed away. Tn5's design proved the most successful and Beckett's floating roadway (subsequently codenamed 'Whale') survived undamaged; the design was adopted and 10 mi (16 km) of Whale roadway were manufactured under the management of J. D. Bernal and Brigadier Bruce White, the Director of Ports and Inland Water Transport at the War Office.


Phoenix caissons under construction, Southampton 1944 Construction of Mulberry Harbours, Southampton, April 1944 A25792.jpg
Phoenix caissons under construction, Southampton 1944

With the planning of Operation Overlord at an advanced stage by the summer of 1943, it was accepted that the proposed artificial harbours would need to be prefabricated in the UK and then towed across the English Channel.

The need for two separate artificial harbours – one American and one British/Canadian – was agreed at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. An Artificial Harbours Sub-Committee was set up under the Chairmanship of the civil engineer Colin R White (Sir Bruce White's brother) to advise on the location of the harbour and the form of the breakwater; the Sub-Committee's first meeting was held at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) on 4 August 1943. [9] The minutes of the Sub-Committee's meetings show that initially it was envisaged that bubble breakwaters would be used, then block ships were proposed and finally, due to an insufficient number of block ships being available, a mix of block ships and purpose made concrete caisson units.

On 2 September 1943 the Combined Chiefs of Staff estimated that the artificial ports (Mulberries) would need to handle 12,000 tons per day, exclusive of motor transport and in all weathers. On 4 September the go ahead was given to start work immediately on the harbours. However, infighting between the War Office and the Admiralty over responsibility was only resolved on 15 December 1943 by the intervention of the Vice-Chiefs of Staff. The decision was that the Admiralty managed the blockships, Bombardons and assembly of all constituent parts on the south coast of England. Further the Admiralty would undertake all necessary work to survey, site, tow and mark navigation.

The War Office was given the task of constructing the concrete caissons (Phoenixes), the roadways (Whales) and protection via anti-aircraft installations. Once at the site, the army was responsible for sinking the caissons and assembling all the various other units of the harbours.

For the Mulberry A at Omaha Beach, the naval Corps of Civil Engineers would construct the harbour from the prefabricated parts.

The proposed harbours called for many huge caissons of various sorts to build breakwaters and piers and connecting structures to provide the roadways. The caissons were built at a number of locations, mainly existing ship building facilities or large beaches, like Conwy Morfa, around the British coast. The works were let out to commercial construction firms including Wates Construction Balfour Beatty, Henry Boot, Bovis & Co, Cochrane & Sons, Costain, Cubitts, French, Holloway Brothers, John Laing & Son, Peter Lind & Company, Sir Robert McAlpine, Melville Dundas & Whitson, Mowlem, Nuttall, Parkinson, Halcrow Group, Pauling & Co. and Taylor Woodrow. [10] On completion they were towed across the English Channel by tugs [11] to the Normandy coast at only 4.3 Knots (8 km/h or 5 mph), assembled, operated and maintained by the Corps of Royal Engineers, under the guidance of Reginald D. Gwyther, who was appointed CBE for his efforts. Various elements of the "Whale" piers were designed and constructed by a group of companies led by Braithwaite & Co, West Bromwich and Newport [12]

Beach surveys

Both locations for the temporary harbours required detailed information concerning geology, hydrography and sea conditions. To collect this data a special team of hydrographers was created in October 1943. The 712th Survey Flotilla, operated from naval base HMS Tormentor in Hamble, were detailed to collect soundings off the enemy coast. Between November 1943 and January 1944 this team used a Landing Craft Personnel (Large), or LCP(L), to survey the Normandy coast.

The special LCP(L) was manned by a Royal Navy crew and a small group of hydrographers. The first sortie, Operation KJF, occurred on the night of 26/27 November 1943 when three LCP(L)s took measurements off the port of Arromanches, the location for Mulberry B. A follow up mission, Operation KJG, to the proposed location for Mulberry A happened on 1/2 December but a navigation failure meant the team sounded an area 2,250 yards west of the correct area.

Two attempts had to be made to take soundings off the Point de Ver. The first sortie, Operation Bellpush Able, on 25/26 December had issues with their equipment and returned on 28/29 December to complete the task.

On New Year's Eve 1943, a Combined Operations Pilotage Party (COPP), left Gosport for the Gold Beach area at Luc-sur-Mer. Two soldiers of the Royal Engineers, Major Scott-Bowden and Sergeant Ogden-Smith, were landed on the beach at night in Operation Postage Able and took samples of the sand. These were crucial in determining whether the armoured vehicles would be able to operate on the beach or become bogged down. The final survey, Operation Bellpush Charlie, occurred on the night of 30–31 January but limited information was gathered due to fog and because German lookouts heard the craft. Further sorties were abandoned. [13]


Wrecked pontoon causeway of one of the "Mulberry" artificial harbours, following the storm of 19-22 June 1944. MulberryA - wrecked pontoon causeway after storm.jpg
Wrecked pontoon causeway of one of the "Mulberry" artificial harbours, following the storm of 19–22 June 1944.

On the afternoon of 6 June 1944 (D-Day) over 400 towed component parts (weighing approximately 1.5 million tons) set sail to create the two Mulberry harbours. It included all the blockships (codenamed Corncobs) to create the outer breakwater (Gooseberries) and 146 concrete caissons (Phoenixes).

Arromanches Mulberry

At Arromanches, the first Phoenix was sunk at dawn on 9 June 1944. By 15 June a further 115 had been sunk to create a five-mile-long arc between Tracy-sur-Mer in the west to Asnelles in the east. To protect the new anchorage, the superstructures of the blockships (which remained above sea-level) and the concrete caissons were festooned with anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons.

Omaha Mulberry

Arriving first on D-Day itself were the Bombardons followed a day later by the first blockship. The first Phoenix was sunk on 9 June and the Gooseberry was finished by 11 June. By 18 June two piers and four pier heads were working. Though this harbour was abandoned in late June (see below), the beach continued to be used for landing vehicles and stores using Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs). Using this method, the Americans were able to unload a higher tonnage of supplies than at Arromanches. Salvageable parts of the artificial port were sent to Arromanches to repair the Mulberry there. [14]

Storm of 19 June 1944

Both harbours were almost fully functional when on 19 June a large north-east storm at Force 6 to 8 blew into Normandy and devastated the Mulberry harbour at Omaha Beach. The harbours had been designed with summer weather conditions in mind but this was the worst storm to hit the Normandy coast in 40 years.

The destruction at Omaha was so bad that the entire harbour was deemed irreparable. 21 of the 28 Phoenix caissons were completely destroyed, the Bombardons were cast adrift, and the roadways and piers smashed.

The Mulberry harbour at Arromanches was more protected, and although damaged by the storm it remained intact. It came to be known as Port Winston. While the harbour at Omaha was destroyed sooner than expected, Port Winston saw heavy use for eight months, despite being designed to last only three months. In the 10 months after D-Day, it was used to land over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies providing much needed reinforcements in France. [15] In response to this longer than planned use the Phoenix breakwater was reinforced with the addition of specially strengthened caissons. [16]

The Royal Engineers had built a complete Mulberry Harbour out of 600,000 tons of concrete between 33 jetties, and had 10 mi (16 km) of floating roadways to land men and vehicles on the beach. Port Winston is commonly upheld as one of the best examples of military engineering. Its remains are still visible today from the beaches at Arromanches.

Harbour elements and code names

Below are listed brief details of the major elements of the harbours together with their associated military code names.


The remains of the harbour off Arromanches in 1990 Arromanches Mulberry-Harbour Phoenix-Elements 1 90.jpg
The remains of the harbour off Arromanches in 1990

Mulberry was the codename for all the various different structures that would create the artificial harbours. These were the "Gooseberries" which metamorphosed into fully fledged harbours. There were two harbours, Mulberry "A" and Mulberry "B". The "Mulberry" harbours consisted of a floating outer breakwater called "Bombardons", a static breakwater consisting of "Corncobs" and reinforced concrete caissons called "Phoenix", floating piers or roadways codenamed "Whales" and "Beetles" and pier heads codenamed "Spuds". These harbours were both of a similar size to Dover harbour. In the planning of Operation Neptune the term Mulberry "B" was defined as, "An artificial harbour to be built in England and towed to the British beaches at Arromanches." [17]

Mulberry "A"

The Mulberry harbour assembled on Omaha Beach at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer was for use by the American invasion forces. Mulberry "A" (American) was not securely anchored to the sea bed as Mulberry "B" had been by the British, resulting in such severe damage during the Channel storms of late June 1944 that it was considered to be irreparable and its further assembly ceased. [18] It was commanded by Augustus Dayton Clark.

Mulberry "B"

Mulberry "B" (British) was the harbour assembled on Gold Beach at Arromanches for use by the British and Canadian invasion forces. The harbour was unofficially named "Port Winston" [19] and was decommissioned six months after D-Day as allied forces were able to use the recently captured port of Antwerp to offload troops and supplies. Mulberry 'B' was operated by 20 Port Group, Royal Engineers under the command of Lt. Col. G C B Shaddick.


Corncobs and Gooseberries (breakwater ships)

Corncobs were ships that crossed the English Channel (either under their own steam or towed) and were then scuttled to act as breakwaters and create sheltered water at the five landing beaches. Once in position the Corncobs created the sheltered waters known as Gooseberries.

The ships used for each beach were:

Two of the "Gooseberries" grew into "Mulberries", the artificial harbours. [23] "

Phoenix caissons

A line of Phoenix caissons in place at Arromanches, with anti-aircraft guns installed. 12 June 1944 A line of Phoenix caisson units, part of the 'Mulberry' artificial harbour at Arromanches, 12 June 1944. B5726.jpg
A line of Phoenix caissons in place at Arromanches, with anti-aircraft guns installed. 12 June 1944
A pair of Phoenixes, and the remains of a third, at Arromanches, 2010 The Phoenix breakwaters (1).jpg
A pair of Phoenixes, and the remains of a third, at Arromanches, 2010

Phoenixes were reinforced concrete caissons constructed by civil engineering contractors around the coast of Britain, collected and sunk at Dungeness and Pagham prior to D-Day. There were six different sizes of caisson (with displacements of approximately 2,000 tons to 6,000 tons each [24] ) and each unit was towed to Normandy by two tugs at around three knots. The caissons were initially sunk awaiting D-Day and then engineers refloated ("resurrected", hence the name) the Phoenixes and US Navy Captain (later Rear Admiral) Edward Ellsberg, already well known for quickly refloating scuttled ships at Massawa and Oran, was brought in to accomplish the task, though not without obtaining Churchill's intervention in taking the task away from the Royal Engineers and giving it to the Royal Navy. The Phoenixes, once refloated, were towed across the channel to form the "Mulberry" harbour breakwaters together with the "Gooseberry" block ships. Ellsberg rode one of the concrete caissons to Normandy; once there he helped unsnarl wrecked landing craft and vehicles on the beach. [25]


The Bombardons were large 200 ft (61 m) by 25 ft (7.6 m) cross-shaped floating breakwaters fabricated in steel that were anchored outside the main breakwaters that consisted of Gooseberries (scuttled ships) and Phoenixes (concrete caissons). 24 bombardon units, attached to one another with hemp ropes, would create a 1 mi (1.6 km) breakwater. During the storms at the end of June 1944 some Bombardons broke up and sank while others parted their anchors and drifted down onto the harbours, possibly causing more damage to the harbours than the storm itself. The design of the Bombardons was the responsibility of the Royal Navy while the Royal Engineers were responsible for the design of the rest of the Mulberry harbour equipment.



A Whale floating roadway leading to a Spud pier at Mulberry A off Omaha Beach Omaha Mulberry Harbour.jpg
A Whale floating roadway leading to a Spud pier at Mulberry A off Omaha Beach

The dock piers were code named Whales. These piers were the floating roadways that connected the "Spud" pier heads to the land. Designed by Allan Beckett the roadways were made from innovative torsionally flexible bridging units that had a span of 80 ft., mounted on pontoon units of either steel or concrete called "Beetles". [26] After the war many of the "Whale" bridge spans from Arromanches were used to repair bombed bridges in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Such units are still visible as a bridge over the Noireau river in Normandy, Meuse River in Vacherauville (Meuse), as a bridge over the Moselle River on road D56 between Cattenom and Kœnigsmacker (Moselle) and in Vierville-sur-Mer (Calvados) along road D517. In 1954, some whales were also used to build for two bridges (still visible) in Cameroon along the Edea to Kribi road. In the 1960s, three Whale spans from Arromanches were used at Ford Dagenham to allow cars to be driven from the assembly line directly onto car-carrying ships. [27] A Whale span from Mulberry B that was reused after the war at Pont-Farcy was saved from destruction in 2008 by Les Amis du Pont Bailey, a group of English and French volunteers. Seeking a permanent home for the Whale span the group gifted it to the Imperial War Museum and it was returned to England in July 2015. After conservation work the span now features as part of the Land Warfare exhibition at Imperial War Museum Duxford.


Beetles were pontoons that supported the Whale piers. They were moored in position using wires attached to "Kite" anchors which were also designed by Allan Beckett. These anchors had such high holding power that very few could be recovered at the end of the War. The Navy was dismissive of Beckett's claims for his anchor's holding ability so Kite anchors were not used for mooring the bombardons. An original Kite anchor is displayed in a private museum at Vierville-sur-Mer while a full size replica forms part of a memorial to Beckett in Arromanches. In October 2018 five Kite anchors were recovered from the bed of the Solent off Woodside Beach, which had been an assembly area for Whale tows prior to D Day. The anchors were taken to Mary Rose Archaeological Services in Portsmouth for conservation treatment. [28]

Spud Piers

The pier heads or landing wharves at which ships were unloaded. Each of these consisted of a pontoon with four legs that rested on the sea bed to anchor the pontoon, yet allowed it to float up and down freely with the tide.

Post-war analysis

Post-war (particularly American) historians say that although it was a success, the vast resources used on the Mulberry may have been wasted, as the American forces were supplied mostly over the beaches without the use of a Mulberry right through to September 1944. By the end of 6 June, 20,000 troops and 1,700 vehicles had landed on Utah beach (the shortest beach). At Omaha and Utah, 6,614 tons of cargo was discharged in the first 3 days. A month after D-Day, Omaha and Utah were handling 9,200 tons, and after a further month, they were landing 16,000 tons per day. This increased until 56,200 tons of supplies, 20,000 vehicles, and 180,000 troops were discharged each day at those beaches. The Mulberry harbours provided less than half the total (on good weather days) to begin with. [29] The Normandy Beaches supplied the following average daily tonnage of supplies:

Average Daily Tonnage of Supplies Landed, Normandy 1944 [30]

total beaches9,20016,000

By the end of June, over 289,827 tons of supplies had been offloaded onto the Normandy beaches. Up to September, U.S. forces were supported largely across the beaches, primarily without the use of the Mulberry. However, "With the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that Cherbourg was captured more rapidly than the Allies had anticipated, and German sabotage of its facilities was minimal. However, in the critical early stage of the operation, had the Allied assault ships been caught in the open without the benefit of any protection, the damage in the American sector especially could have been catastrophic to the lines of supply and communication." [31]

"Mulberry B was substantially reinforced with units salvaged from the American harbor and that the Phoenixes were pumped full of sand to give them greater stability, measures that undoubtedly explain the extended service which the British port was able to render. Furthermore, the planners obviously underrated the capacities of open beaches. The tremendous tonnage capacities subsequently developed at both Utah and Omaha were without doubt one of the most significant and gratifying features of the entire Overlord operation." [32]

Surviving remnants in the UK

Littlestone-on-Sea Phoenix caisson Phoenix Caisson - - 1323168.jpg
Littlestone-on-Sea Phoenix caisson

Sections of Phoenix caissons can be found at:

Beetles can be found at:

Other artefacts around Garlieston include a conspicuous stone wall at the back of Rigg Bay beach and the remains of a collapsed Hippo visible at low tide.

German equivalent of Mulberry

In the period between postponement and cancellation of Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of the UK, Germany developed some prototype prefabricated jetties with a similar purpose in mind. [39] These could be seen in Alderney, until they were demolished in 1978. [39] The remaining foundations for the Alderney jetty formed an obstruction to the commercial quay extension project carried out in 2008-2009.

Daily Telegraph crosswords

"Mulberry" and the names of all the beaches were words appearing in the Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle in the month prior to the invasion. The crossword compilers, Melville Jones [40] and Leonard Dawe, were questioned by MI5, which determined the appearance of the words was innocent. However, over 60 years later, a former student reported that Dawe frequently requested words from his students, many of whom were children in the same area as US military personnel. [41]


Some troops from the American Ghost Army went to Normandy two weeks after D-Day to simulate a fake Mulberry harbour. The deception was created in such a way that at night its lights drew German gunfire away from the real Mulberries.

See also

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Arromanches-les-Bains Commune in Normandy, France

Arromanches-les-Bains is a commune in the Calvados department in the Normandy region of north-western France.

Amphibious warfare is a type of offensive military operation that today uses naval ships to project ground and air power onto a hostile or potentially hostile shore at a designated landing beach. Through history the operations were conducted using ship's boats as the primary method of delivering troops to shore. Since the Gallipoli Campaign, specialised watercraft were increasingly designed for landing troops, materiel and vehicles, including by landing craft and for insertion of commandos, by fast patrol boats, zodiacs and from mini-submersibles.

Caisson (engineering) Rigid structure to provide workers with a dry working environment below water level

In geotechnical engineering, a caisson is a watertight retaining structure used, for example, to work on the foundations of a bridge pier, for the construction of a concrete dam, or for the repair of ships. Caissons are constructed in such a way that the water can be pumped out, keeping the work environment dry. When piers are being built using an open caisson, and it is not practical to reach suitable soil, friction pilings may be driven to form a suitable sub-foundation. These piles are connected by a foundation pad upon which the column pier is erected.

Phoenix breakwaters

The Phoenix breakwaters were a set of reinforced concrete caissons built as part of the artificial Mulberry harbours that were assembled as part of the follow-up to the Normandy landings during World War II. They were constructed by civil engineering contractors around the coast of Britain. They were collected at Dungeness and Selsey, and then towed by tugboats across the English Channel and sunk to form the Mulberry harbour breakwaters replacing the initial "Gooseberry" block ships. Further caisson were added in the autumn of 1944 to reinforce the existing structure to cope with the harbour continuing in use longer than planned.

Bruce White British engineer

Brigadier Sir Bruce Gordon White, KBE, FCGI, FICE, FIEE (1885-1983) was one of the leading British consulting engineers of his generation. Son of the engineer Robert White (1842-1925), Bruce White joined his father's practice in 1919 together with his brother Colin White in 1923. On his father's death Bruce White became senior partner. After World War II Bruce White was knighted, and the practice became known as Sir Bruce White, Wolfe Barry and Partners. On Sir Bruce's retirement Allan Beckett became senior partner. The family firm continues today as marine consulting engineers Beckett Rankine where Sir Bruce's grandson Gordon Rankine and Allan Beckett's son Tim Beckett are directors.

Operation Chastity was a World War II plan by the Allies to construct an artificial harbor in Quiberon Bay, France, to support Allied operations in Northern France in 1944. It was never implemented because by the time that the surrounding territory had been seized, the main front had advanced hundreds of miles from Normandy; and Antwerp, with its port facilities intact, had been captured.

Baie de la Seine

The Baie de la Seine or Baie de Seine is a bay in northern France.

Lepe, Hampshire human settlement in United Kingdom

Lepe is a small settlement on the Solent in the English county of Hampshire. At the 2011 Census the settlement population was included in the civil parish of Exbury and Lepe. It is located at the mouth of the Dark Water, and is the site of the Lepe Country Park, which runs from Stanswood Bay to the mouth of the Beaulieu River.

Allan Beckett British engineer

Allan Harry Beckett MBE was a civil engineer whose design for the 'Whale' floating roadway was crucial to the success of the Mulberry harbour that was used in the Normandy Landings. Starting the war as a sapper digging trenches on the South Coast at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, Allan Beckett came to play a significant role in the success of the Mulberry harbour used during and after the Normandy landings of June 1944.

Robert Lochner (engineer) British engineer

Robert Lochner (1904–1965) was the inventor of The Bombardon Breakwater, an integral part of the Mulberry Harbour, which helped the successful invasion of the Normandy Beaches in June 1944.

ORP <i>Wilia</i>

ORP Wilia was a transport and training ship of the Polish Navy of the Second Polish Republic, from 1940 a merchant ship SS Modlin.

HNLMS <i>Sumatra</i> (1920)

HNLMS Sumatra was a Java-class cruiser of the Royal Netherlands Navy. She was launched during World War I and saw action during World War II. She was scuttled off the coast of Normandy on 9 June 1944 at Ouistreham as part of a "gooseberry" pier to protect an artificial Allied Mulberry Harbour built as part of Operation Overlord.

Battle of Port-en-Bessin

The Battle of Port-en-Bessin also known as Operation Aubery took place from 7–8 June 1944, at a small fishing harbour west of Arromanches during the Normandy landings of World War II. The village was between Omaha Beach to the west in the U.S. V Corps sector, and Gold Beach to the east in the British XXX Corps sector. An objective during Operation Overlord, the fortified port was captured by No. 47 Commando of the 4th Special Service Brigade.

Mulberry Harbour Phoenix Units, Portland

The Portland Mulberry Harbour Phoenix Units are two reinforced concrete caissons, built as part of the artificial Mulberry harbours that were assembled as part of the follow-up to the Normandy landings during World War II. Out of a total of 148 produced units, two units still remain at the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. They are located at Portland Harbour, close to Queen's Pier. The two units became Grade II Listed in 1993.

British logistics in the Normandy Campaign

British logistics in the Normandy Campaign played a key role in the success of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France in June 1944. The objective of the campaign was to secure a lodgement on the mainland of Europe for further operations. The Allies had to land sufficient forces to overcome the initial opposition and build it up faster than the Germans could respond. Planning for this operation had begun in 1942. The Anglo-Canadian force, the 21st Army Group, consisted of the British Second Army and Canadian First Army. Between them they had six armoured divisions, ten infantry divisions, two airborne divisions, nine independent armoured brigades and two commando brigades. Logistical units included six supply unit headquarters, 25 Base Supply Depots (BSDs), 83 Detail Issue Depots (DIDs), 25 field bakeries, 14 field butcheries and 18 port detachments. The army group was supported over the beaches and through the Mulberry artificial port specially constructed for the purpose.


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Further reading