The Mulberry harbour

Many people around Europe when asked about Normandy in France, will quickly associate it with the D-Day. D-Day was the most massive seaborne invasion in history that took place on the 6th of June 1944. Allied forces from around 13 countries, among other US American, Canadian and British started an invasion aiming to liberate Europe from the Nazi Germany occupation.

The operation was planned for months in advance, with a large-scale deception campaign to mislead the Germans about the intended location of the invasion. On the day of the operation, over 156,000 Allied troops, including American, British, and Canadian soldiers, landed on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. The operation was preceded by airborne landings by paratroopers and glider-borne troops, who were tasked with securing key strategic points behind enemy lines. The landings themselves were met with heavy resistance from the German army, but ultimately the Allies were successful in establishing a foothold on French soil. The success of the D-Day invasion allowed the Allies to begin pushing the Germans out of France and ultimately led to the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. The operation was a major victory for the Allies and marked a turning point in the war, setting the stage for the eventual defeat of Germany.

Thus, sightseeing in Normandy, we planned to visit the Gold Beach, one of five beaches where the landing took place. Gold Beach was located on the eastern side of the Allied landing zone, between Omaha Beach to the west and Juno Beach to the east.

Gold Beach was assigned to the British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, supported by amphibious tanks of the 27th Armoured Brigade. The primary objective of the division was to capture the coastal towns of Arromanches and Bayeux, secure the bridges over the River Seulles, and link up with the Canadians at Juno Beach. The initial landing on Gold Beach was made by elements of the 50th Division at around 7:30 am, with the support of naval gunfire and aircraft. The beach was heavily fortified and defended by German troops, but the Allies were able to establish a beachhead and advance inland. The British were able to achieve their objectives for the day, including the capture of Arromanches. The capture of Bayeux on June 7th allowed the British to link up with the Americans at Omaha Beach and create a continuous front along the Normandy coast. The Battle for Gold Beach continued for several weeks as the Allies pushed inland, encountering strong resistance from the German forces. The successful landing at Gold Beach was a key part of the D-Day invasion.

In Arromanches and the Gold Beach we expected to see a monument and some wreckage of military equipment. Below, the views we saw on spot.

Not being a specialist in military issues, I thought that the wreckage we saw was that what was left of the floating or landing equipment. However, it was not. The collective knowledge is that during the landing, there were severe fights with a high death toll. But often it is forgotten that to provide soldiers with equipment, food and other things one needs to bring in much cargo. D-Day was also a large logistics operation. As the regular ports were in Nazi hands, the allied forces had to construct a provisional harbor. The solution was to build artificial harbors that could be towed across the English Channel and assembled on the Normandy coast. In fact, there were two harbors established – one at Omaha Beach and one in Arromanches at the Gold Beach called Port Winston.

Those ports had been named Mulberry harbours adter the Mulberry trees that grow in Britain. The code name “Mulberry” was chosen for the project because it was felt that it would be easy to remember and to keep secret. The connection between the Mulberry Harbours and Mulberry trees is primarily a naming coincidence.

The Mulberry Harbour was made up of a series of prefabricated concrete caissons, steel pontoons, and floating roadways that could be assembled and towed across the English Channel from Britain. Once in Normandy, the components were assembled to create a large artificial harbor that could accommodate the landing of troops, vehicles, and supplies.

Port Winston was the harbor at Arromanches and was completed just 10 days after the initial landings. It consisted of an outer breakwater formed by old ships, concrete caissons, and steel blocks, and an inner harbor created by floating roadways that were connected to the shore. Port Winston was a remarkable engineering achievement, allowing the Allies to bring in over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies during the campaign in Normandy. The harbor remained in operation for several months and was critical to the success of the Allied campaign, allowing them to maintain a steady flow of troops and supplies despite German efforts to disrupt their supply lines. Today, the remains of Port Winston can still be seen at Arromanches, including the concrete caissons that formed the outer breakwater and the remains of the floating roadways that made up the inner harbor. It remains a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Allies during World War II.

Below a sequence of pictures, I did in a small memorial center in Arromanches looking at an old panorama picture hanging at the entrance showing the harbor as it was operated in 1944.

The port was under operation for 10 months till regular ports on the continent were taken back from the Nazis. (The other one at the Omaha beach was destroyed earlier by a storm).

The Mulberry harbour