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The Mulberry  Harbours, Normandy France.

A Great WW2 Engineering Achievement


The 'Mulberry Harbours' was a WW2 civil engineering project of immense size and complexity. The floating harbours provided port facilities during the invasion of Normandy from June 1944 until French ports like Cherbourg were captured. How did they erect two harbours, each the size of Dover, in just a few days in wartime, when Dover itself took 7 years?

When it came to ousting the Germans from their entrenched defensive positions along the 'Atlantic Wall,' planners knew that blockading and attack by air would not be sufficient. The Germans would defend their front lines with great vigour and only an overwhelming large scale invasion force, with their equipment and supplies, would be up to the task.

[Photo; Aerial view of a completed Mulberry Harbour with its main component parts identified.]

In the crucial days and weeks following the landing, the Allies could ill afford delays in supplying their advancing forces. Intelligence reports indicated that French seaports were heavily defended by German forces and they were liable to be disabled in the event of imminent Allied occupation. Planners also drew on the main lesson learnt from the ill-fated Dieppe Raid, that heavily defended ports could not be taken without crippling losses. What could be done to provide harbour facilities close to the landing beaches, where none existed? They'd take their own! 

Conventional construction of a harbour would require detailed ground and seabed surveys, precise building and engineering plans, several years construction time and a large, highly skilled labour force to build it. Any new harbours would need to be construct in days, by a competent labour force, under the guidance of skilled engineers and all within range of enemy aircraft and long range guns.

The Concept

In 1917, Churchill drafted detailed plans for the capture of two islands, Borkum and Sylt, which lay off the Dutch and Danish coasts. He envisaged using flat-bottomed barges, or caissons, measuring 37m x 23m x 12m, which would form the basis of an artificial harbour when lowered to the seabed and filled with sand. Events moved on and Churchill's proposal was quietly forgotten.

In 1941, Hugh Iorys Hughes, a quiet, unassuming Welshman from North Wales, had similar ideas. He was a successful civil engineer living in London, when he submitted plans to the War Office. Their potential value was not immediately recognised but Hughes' brother, a Commander in the Royal Navy, drew the plan to the attention of more senior officers. It was the beginning of a long association Hughes had with the Mulberry project.

Other accounts credit Professor J D Bernal with similar ideas, expanded upon by Brigadier Bruce White, who later helped draw up plans for the final design of  Mulberry. He was greatly assisted by Allan Beckett whose "whale" design for the roadway was selected in preference to Hamilton's Swiss Roll and Hughes' concrete Hippo (more information on these below). With a project of this size and complexity, it's no surprise that there were a number of major players in the Mulberry story. Both Bruce White and Allan Beckett wrote papers about aspects of Mulberry, details of which can be found at the bottom of this page under Reading Material & Websites.


Early in 1941, a new department within the War Office was formed, code named 'Transportation 5' (Tn5) under Major General D J McMullen. It had responsibility for port engineering, repairs and maintenance. Under the command of civil engineer, Bruce White, their first project was to construct two military ports in the Clyde estuary, one of which was in Gare Loch. However, the Mulberry project and the construction of embarkation points on the shores of the UK, soon became its top priority.

[Photos; a pair of stranded caissons in Portland Harbour still dominating the skyline after 70 years (2013) and a view of them from the air. Copyright 2016 Google & Digital Globe.]

There was much debate with the Americans about how best to provide sheltered harbours. Ideas including sunken ships, concrete caissons, concrete pontoons, collapsible canvas floating barriers and Pykrete were considered. There was, unsurprisingly, scepticism on both sides of the Atlantic with some believing that Mulberry was an even more fanciful idea than Pykrete ships! To overcome the doubters in his ranks, Mountbatten called a meeting in one of the bathrooms of the Queen Mary. They were en route to an important meeting with the Americans in Quebec, where a decision on artificial harbours would be taken.

As they entered the bathroom, they saw a partially filled bath, 40 or so ships made out of newspaper and a Mae West lifebelt. Half the 'fleet' was placed in the bath and the most junior officer present in the crowded bathroom, Lt Commander Grant, RN, was asked to make waves with the back of a brush. In no time, the vessels sank. The demonstration was repeated this time with the 'fleet' floating inside the Mae West. To the immortal command "More waves please, Lieutenant Grant" the heavily braided onlookers saw that all the vessels survived.

One USA sceptic, Admiral John Leslie Hall Junior, US Navy Commander, was not convinced. He predicted that the Mulberries would never stand up to the rigours of the English Channel and questioned the need for harbours, since he could unload 1000 LSTs at a time on open beaches... more than enough to supply the advancing Allied forces. His prediction was, at least in part, later proved to be correct in the case of Mulberry A (details below) but the balance of opinion was in favour the project and it was approved. The task was given to Mountbatten's Combined Operations but on realising that the resources needed were beyond his Command's capacity, he contracted out the operational aspects to the War Department.

The Prototypes

Three designs were selected for further evaluation. The first, from the War Office, was for flexible steel bridges on pontoons of steel or concrete with pier-head units on adjustable legs to rise and fall on the tides. The second, from the Admiralty, was a flexible floating construction of timber and canvas held together with steel cables, similar in appearance to a 'Swiss Roll' in its stored condition. The third, from Iorys Hughes, envisaged the use of steel bridges to be mounted on concrete caissons and floated to the sites and sunk in position. Initially, none of the proposals envisaged the need for breakwaters protection.

In the search for flat, sandy beaches with characteristics similar to those of Normandy, the remote and sparsely populated area around Wigtown Bay on the Scottish side of the Solway Firth proved ideal after exhaustive beach and sea bed surveys. Its remote location ensured that an effective security cordon could be set up.

[Map of South West Scotland courtesy of Google Map Data 2017.]

The whole area from Garlieston to the Isle of Whithorn (not an island!) was declared off limits to all except local fishermen. Work started on the construction of a military camp at Cairnhead to accommodate the increasing numbers of engineering sappers, with an additional 200 men being accommodated in the village hall in Garlieston.

The prototypes were constructed at "the Morfa," Conwy in North Wales, where over 1000 local and outside workers were drafted in for the purpose. One such was Olef Kerensky, the son of a former Russian Prime Minister, who supervised the construction process. With his mother, he fled from Leningrad at the age of 10 and entered the UK on a false passport! Raymond Lee was a small boy when he witnessed the construction of the massive caissons from his home on the other side of the Conwy estuary.

The Morfa area was transformed into a huge construction site. Hughes' three 'Hippo' caissons were towed to the site in Rigg Bay near Garlieston. Two 'Croc' roadways were attached to the metal bars on the Hippos and various combinations were tested in a variety of weather and tidal conditions. Fully laden vehicles were driven across the roadway.

[Map of North Wales courtesy of Google Map Data 2017.]

The testing allowed the engineers to assess the characteristics of the components and the whole assembly. It was found that the floating piers did not rise and fall with the tide as predicted but Hughes found a solution in the provision of adjustable spans between the Hippos and the roadway. A more serious problem was the unexpected pitching and yawing of the Hippos, causing the attached Croc roadways to buckle. Hughes proposed the construction of Hippos of diminishing size, on which the roadways would sit.

Hughes' design was not alone in experiencing problems. When Hamilton's Swiss Roll roadway was tested with a 3 ton tipper truck, the roadway sank in under two hours. Adjustments were made, but further tests in the open sea confirmed that its load bearing capacity of 7 tons, fell well  short of what was required to carry a tank. The Swiss Roll roadway design was soon abandoned. It was Beckett's flexible bridging units, supported on pontoons, which produced the best results.

However, Churchill was not happy with the rate of progress. He had sent a memo to Mountbatten on the 30th May 1942... "Piers for use on beaches. They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don't argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves." Progress at first was slow, as the merits of complex, competing, cutting edge proposals were championed by the many interested parties. Churchill's frustration was very evident from the content of increasingly irate messages he penned in the following months, culminating in this one of 10 Mar 1943. "This matter is being much neglected. Dilatory experiments with varying types and patterns have resulted in us having nothing. It is now nearly six months since I urged the construction of several miles of pier."

[Photo; Major Carline, The Quarter Master General, Sir Riddle-Webster, Brig. Bruce-White and Maj Steer-Webster examining plans at Garlieston Harbour. © IWM H 28097.]

Organisational changes were made to "get a grip" on the project. There were tensions between the War Office and the Admiralty, causing poor co-operation and bad communications. After earlier allocations of responsibility had failed to resolve matters, the War Office was tasked to design the caissons and oversee the development of the pier-heads and piers, while the Admiralty were tasked to design and oversee the development of the floating breakwaters. This arrangement was later refined to accommodate Admiralty concerns about the berthing and navigation guides, by giving them responsibility for towing all the components across the channel, the layout and positioning of the harbours and the navigational channels and moorings.

While the early designs did not envisage protective breakwaters, it became clear that an area of calmer water was essential. The final plans would use  the traditional breakwaters but other calming measures were considered, including "bubble breaker" and "lilo". The former involved pumping high pressure air along perforated pipelines, causing a large volume of compressible air in the sea, which was sufficient to absorb the power of heavy breakers. The latter comprised large canvas bags extending some 4m below the waves and 3m above. They were inflated to low pressure and operated on a similar basis to the bubble breaker, in that they would absorb the power of the waves by allowing the air they contained to be compressed.

On conclusion of the tests a final design was chosen. There would be two harbours, each comprising two breakwaters, offshore and flanking, made from hollow ferro-concrete caissons. To provide extra protection, 70 obsolete merchant and navy 'block-ships' would be sunk to fill gaps in the protection provided by the caissons. Inside the protective cordons, pier-heads connected to the shore by Beckett's floating steel roadways, would complete the harbours. Churchill recruited Iorys Hughes as a consultant to the project, because of his commitment and expertise.

Final Specification

The ideal specification was a pier a mile long, capable of withstanding gale force winds and berthing large coasters. To do this, the artificial harbours would need to provide sheltered conditions and be larger than the port of Dover, which had taken seven years to build. Within the sheltered areas, stable floating quays would be located some distance from the beaches to provide sufficient water depth (6.7 metres) for the docking vessels. These quays would be linked to the beaches by floating roadways, to allow the discharged goods and equipment to be transported ashore in fleets of lorries. Two harbours would be required - Mulberry A for the USA beaches of Omaha and Utah and Mulberry B for the British and Canadian beaches of Gold, Juno and Sword. The designs would allow for the floating caissons to be secured in place in four days. Each harbour would have a capacity of  7000 tons of vehicles and supplies per day.

For security reasons, randomly selected codes were used to describe the various components of the two Mulberry Harbours viz...


  •  Bombardons - floating breakwaters, comprising huge, metal, crucifix shaped structures ballasted and firmly anchored in place. They were the outermost barrier and, therefore, the first line of defence against rough seas.

  •  Phoenixes - 146 concrete caissons, 60 metres long, 18 metres high and 15 metres wide, making up 9.5 kilometres of the breakwater. They were airtight, floating cases open at the bottom with air-cocks to lower them to the sea-bed in a controlled fashion. Around 2 million tons of steel and concrete were used in their construction.

  •  Gooseberries - 70 obsolete merchant vessels (block ships) were gathered together at Oban on the west coast of Scotland, stripped down, ballasted and primed with explosive scuttling charges. The vessels sailed under their own steam and were sunk in 5 locations, including the 2 Mulberry harbours.


  •  Pierheads were located at the seaward end of the roadways. Each stood on four legs called 'Spuds', with a platform that could be raised and lowered with the tide, using electric winches. Twenty three were planned, of which eight were spares.

Roadways [Photo; Mulberry roadway. © IWM (H 39295).]

  •  Beetles - concrete and steel floats or pontoons to support the roadways. Each was capable of supporting the 56 tons of the Whales bridging pieces + 25 tons of a tank.

  •  Whales - 16 kilometres of roadways.

  •  Buffer - approach span from the floating roadway to beach.

  •  Rhino - power driven pontoon, on which cargo was brought ashore.

Intelligence Gathering

The success of the operation would depend on accurate and detailed topographical information about the beaches and coastal towns along the French coast. Aerial photographs helped identify likely locations but, to obtain more detailed views, the Government appealed to the public for holiday photographs and postcards of unspecified coastal areas of France. However, much more detailed information on the target beaches and their approaches was required. Local conditions, such as the composition of the beaches, hidden underwater banks, German defensive obstacles, depth of water, tidal conditions, etc., would all be taken into account in the planning of the project. The stakes were very high, since poor intelligence could jeopardise the whole vast project and cause many deaths and injuries. There was no room for error.

On New Year's eve 1943, under the leadership of 24 year old Major Logan Scott Bowden of the Royal Engineers, a unit set out in motor torpedo boats to reconnoitre the area around Luc-sur-Mer. They transferred to a hydrographical survey craft and moved closer to shore. Major Logan and Sgt Bruce Ogden-Smith then swam to the beaches, where they took samples of sand, mud, peat and gravel, which they stored in labelled tubes. They were careful not to leave behind any evidence of their visits, lest the Germans, becoming aware to their clandestine activities, might deduce the purpose behind them. Their lateral movements along the beaches, for example, were made below the tide mark, thus leaving no incriminating evidence behind! Their mission was a total success.

A month or so later, this time using a midget submarine under tow for part of the way, they approached the area to the west of Port-en-Bessin and Vierville. This was followed by a similar visit to the Omaha beach area a few weeks later. From all the information gathered, two scale models of the landing beaches were constructed. One was held by the War Department in room 474 of the Great Metropole Hotel in London and a duplicate in the Prime Minister's room in the War Cabinet Offices - two of the most secret rooms in the country.

At Cairnryan, just north of Stranraer in south west Scotland, the information gathered about the beaches was used to construct a full size reproduction of the beaches. This would allow the planners to assess the effectiveness of the current landing techniques and the movement of men and machinery over the terrain.

The Manufacturing Process

The scale of the project was enormous and was in danger of over-stretching the capacity of the UK's civil engineering industry. From late summer of 1943 onwards, three hundred firms were recruited from around the country, employing 40,000 to 45,000 personnel at the peak. Men from trades and backgrounds, not associated with the construction industry, were drafted in and given crash courses appropriate to their work. Their task was to construct 212 caissons ranging from 1672 tons to 6044 tons, 23 pier-heads and 10 miles of floating roadway.

Most of the concrete caissons were manufactured on the River Thames and the River Clyde, in some cases using hastily constructed dry docks. The steel "Beetle" floats were assembled in Richborough, Kent, the concrete Beetles at Southsea, Marchward and Southampton and the pier-heads and buffer ramps at the Morfa site Hughes had used for the manufacture of his Hippo caissons. Trials continued to be run in the Garlieston area of the Solway Firth, even during the manufacturing phase of the project.

Hughes' involvement continued throughout the manufacturing period and beyond. He helped identify Selsey and Dungeness, on the south coast of England, as ideal places to 'park' the completed caissons until needed. Also closely involved in the planning for D-Day and the Mulberry Harbours, was Sir Harold Werner. He was a rather overbearing, single minded individual, who did not court popularity or make friends amongst his professional contacts. Perhaps, as a consequence of this, his valuable service, in finding solutions to insurmountable problems and generally keeping the project on schedule, went largely unrecognised after the war.

D-Day +

A large number of British and USA tugs were requisitioned, for Operation Corncob, to tow the Mulberries from their assembly point, near Lee-on-Solent, to France. They departed on June 4 but were held in mid channel when D-Day was delayed by a day. By the time of the initial assault landings, most caissons were positioned about 5 miles off the French coast. Click here for information about the British and American tugs involved.

[Map of Normandy Beaches courtesy of Google Map Data 2017.]

Responsibility for Mulberry B, off Arromanches, fell to the No 1 Port Construction and Repair Group. They sailed in the evening of June 6 1944 and by the early hours of June 7, under the command of Lt Col Mais, markers were positioned at the high tide mark on the landing beach and on higher ground beyond. These markers would be used to align the first two piers into their correct positions. Further out to sea, marker buoys for the caissons and block ships were positioned in their predetermined places. Under the command of Lt Col Landsdowne, RN, the block-ships left Poole harbour for France, on their final voyages, before they were to be scuttled. It would be a tricky operation to achieve the 'overlapping' positions the plan envisaged but essential to ensure protection against high seas and fast flowing tides.

Similar operations were in progress at Mulberry A off Vierville-Saint-Laurent but here, the vessels arrived under heavy enemy fire. The tugs, which had accompanied the vessels and which were to assist in their final positioning, dispersed earlier than planned but, by a stroke of good fortune, the 2nd and 3rd block-ships were sunk by the Germans in roughly the correct positions.

In all, 5 Gooseberries were positioned to provide the best protection for the two Mulberry harbours and for other beach landing points at Utah, Courseulles, 11k east of Arromanches, and Ouistreham. The breakwaters also provided a good measure of protection during the construction of the 2 Mulberry harbours. The UTAH beach became a major logistical supply base for the Americans up to November '44, thanks to the protection afforded by its 'Goosberry.'

The Bombardons were towed out on June 6 to their moorings, which had been laid previously by boom laying craft. However, a mistaken order resulted in the Bombardons being placed in water some 20m to 24m deep, rather than the designed 13m and they were strung out in a single line instead of the planned double line. The effectiveness of this outer barrier was compromised.

The photo opposite was sent in by Scott Blyth, who wrote; On June 12, 1944, my father, Lt. John S. Blyth, flew a photo recce mission to the Loire Bridges. It was sortie 1841 of the 14th Squadron of the 7th Photo Group (USAAF). The targets were La Huichetiere, Nantes Airfield, Le Port Boulet Bridge damage assessment and the Loire Bridges from Nantes to Tours. He was based at Mt Farm near Oxford and on that mission flew Spit MK XI PA 841. Crossing the coast over Omaha Beach, he took at least one photo of the beachhead. It appears to contain one of the piers of Mulberry A.

The caissons had a 4 man crew, two sailors and an anti-aircraft gun emplacement. On D+1, the caissons were towed to positions about a mile off-shore, where a fleet of powerful harbour tugs maneuvred them into their final positions. The caissons' sea valves were opened, allowing them to settle on the seabed at previously agreed positions and depths. Each Mulberry was about a mile long and stood about 30 ft (9m) above sea level at low tide and 10 ft (3m) at high tide. The block-ships at Mulberry B were in position by June 13th, forming two crescent shaped harbours, which accommodated 75 Liberty ships and small craft.

The installation of the 'stores' and 'LST' piers proved to be more of a problem. The components began to arrive at Mulberry B on D+4. Work continued throughout the night but choppy seas caused problems in manoeuvring the bridging spans into position. However, by D+8, 1.2 kilometres of pier and roadway were in place and operational. The 2nd stores pier was operational by July 8, however, the Beetle floats, to support the roadway, had been positioned in an overlapping pattern, rather than opposite each other as the design intended. This error contributed to stability problems, which were later experienced. The Luftwaffe attacked Mulberry B on July 15 but the very strong anti aircraft defences shot down 9 of the 12 Messcherschmitts.

Mulberry A was in use for less than 10 days when, on June 19, it was severely damaged by the worst period of sustained severe weather in 40 years. 21 caissons of the original 31 were damaged beyond repair with broken backs and sides. Mulberry A was never used again and parts of it were scavenged to repair damage to Mulberry B.

[Photo; DUKWs or "Ducks" being driven up the hillside to the unloading point where they discharge their loads into lorries. The Mulberry harbour at Arromanches can be seen in the background. © IWM (A 24677).]

The Americans quickly reverted to the traditional method of unloading from beached landing craft and DUKWs, often coming in on one tide and leaving on the next. Such was their success that on occasions they exceeded the impressive performance of Mulberry B.

Each day, until the end of August, around 9000 tons were landed via Mulberry B. By this time, Cherbourg port became available for use, at least  in part.

Towards the end of the year, after the capture of Walcheren in mid November 1944, the port of Antwerp also became available and by then was much closer to the action, as the Allies moved closer to Germany's borders. Mulberry B was in use for 5 months, during which time over 2 million men, half a million vehicles and 4 million tons of supplies passed through the harbour. During this period, several additional caissons reinforced weak points in the breakwater.

[ 4 Photos opposite and below; HMLST 427 discharging her cargo onto Mulberry A prior to the 19th June storm.]

The Mulberry project was a great feat of engineering, as it challenged numerous, unique complex problems. The manufacturing task was completed in just 6 months, by hundreds of contractors, in dozens of locations, under wartime conditions and a serious shortage of skilled labour.

In approving the Mulberry Harbour project, the planners paramount concern was to secure the Allied supply line, without which invasion would stall as supplies, armaments and fuel dried up. The enemy would then have a relatively quiet period to regroup and to draw on their reserves. There are those who believe that Mulberry was unnecessary, as exampled by the Americans success in landing supplies directly onto the beaches after the abandonment of Mulberry A. We'll never know, with any degree of certainty, what would have happened had Mulberry never been built...  and that, for many, is all the justification needed for the planners' decision to authorise the project.

Except in the memories of the dwindling few who were there, there is nothing in our collective experience that allows us to fully appreciate the vastness of the operation and the absolute necessity to move men, supplies, munitions and equipment to the right place at the right time. Even the logistics faced by the largest supermarket chains today pale into insignificance, when compared to the task faced by the planners in the early 1940s. They faced an awesome responsibility with dire consequences for the world in the event of failure to deliver.

The Supermarket comparison offers an opportunity to put the scale of the task into a modern context. It has been calculated that each serviceman needed 6.5lb (3Kg) per day to sustain him in the field. On this basis1000 men needed around 2.5 tons, 100,000 needed 250 tons and 1,000,000 needed 2,500 tons per day!

As the size of the invading force grew, so did the daily demand for supplies. In addition, there were lorries, tanks, artillery pieces, ammunition, military field hospitals, mobile radar and communications units etc, etc. all of which had to be transported across the channel. Over 4,000 vessels plied the waters between the UK and Normandy from D-Day and the contribution of Mulberry B, in speeding up the operation and securing the supply chain in adverse weather conditions, is beyond question. The majority of vessels in use were not capable of beach landings.

After the war, at the Nurembeurg trials, Albert Speer gave the enemy perspective on the Mulberry Harbours and their Atlantic Wall defences. 'To construct our defences we had, in two years, used some 13 million cubic metres of concrete and 1.5 million tons of steel. A fortnight after the landings by the enemy, this costly effort was brought to nothing because of an idea of simple genius. As we know now, the invasion forces brought their own harbours and built at Arromanches and Omaha, on unprotected coast, the necessary landing ramps."

[Photo; Looking east towards Arromanches courtesy of Nigel Stewart.]

Memorials & Plaques

Location - Conwy, North Wales. Follow signs for the marina. The plaque is situated in the council car park next to Conwy Marina. Other Info - read the full story about the design, testing, development and manufacture of the Mulberry Harbours and of the key role of a local boy cum civil engineer.

Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page. They, or any other books you know about, can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Their search banner link, on our 'Books' page, checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Just type in, or copy and paste the title of your choice, or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords.

Memoirs of a Concrete Consultant by Victor S Wigmore. The author was a consulting engineer on the Mulberry Harbour project in the SE of England. His speciality was in the use of concrete. Chapter VII of his book describes aspects of his work on Mulberry. Pub in 1979 by New Horizon, 5, Victoria Drive, Bognor Regis, West Sussex. ISBN 0 86116 127 0.

A Harbour Goes to War - The Story of Mulberry and The Men Who Made it Happen by Jane Evans, E. Palmer & R. Walter. The Mulberry harbours were a vital link in the supply chain  following the Normandy invasion. This is the story of their development in Scotland, and their use, using  personal anecdotes and photographs. ISBN 1873547307.

Force Mulberry by Alfred Stanford. The Planning & Installation of the artificial harbor off U.S. Normandy Beaches. William Morrow and Co, 1951.

Conwy Mulberry Harbour by Mark Hughes. Paperback, ISBN 0-86381-757-2.

Code Name Mulberry by G Hartcup. The Planning, Building and Operation of the Normandy Harbors Published 1977 David & Charles, London & Hippocrene Books Inc NY.

Some (engineering) Aspects of the Design of Flexible Bridging, Including 'Whale' Floating Roadways by the engineer/designer Allan Beckett. Available as PDF download.

Untold Stories of D-Day - National Geographical June 2002.

Detailed account of Mulberry B including tables of the movement of men and materials through the completed harbour.

Thames Tugs. Click here for archive information about the British and American Tugs used to transport/tow the Mulberry Harbours across the English Channel.


Mulberry Mobile Cranes

Hello Geoff,

I don't know if this information is of interest to you but I recently discovered that Jones Cranes of Letchworth provided cranes for unloading ships at the Mulberry harbours. My mother, who lived in East Ham at the time, was a seamstress for a well known manufacturer of wedding dresses and was conscripted as a welder and found herself building cranes in Letchworth!

According to the Jones website, this photo opposite is one of the KL 15 mobile cranes in action unloading a barge at Arromanches.

I also discovered that Allan Beckett
, whose "whale" design for the roadway was selected in preference to other designs, was an old boy of my school, East Ham Grammar, so I have a personal interest in the Mulberry harbours! My mother, by the way, was a classmate of Vera Lynn's and although they never kept in touch, I actually found myself in contact with the great lady this summer, a sprightly 101 year old.

Best wishes,

Alan Davidge

Mulberry Harbour Models

Hello Geoff,

I attach a pdf of my Grandfather's wartime involvement in model making including the Mulberry Harbour model.



Stephen Masters

Garlieston Today. I'm a retired Territorial Army Major and have an interest in military history. My uncle was involved in the building of the Mulberry Harbours during the Second World War and since I live just a few miles from the location of the top secret trials mentioned above, I have a special interest in the subject. With the eye of a retired Chartered Surveyor, I inspected the remains of the Mulberry Harbours in France and also the location of the various works at Garlieston. A study of the information contained within the display and exhibition at Garlieston and on the Combined Operations website added to my field research. Until recent times very few local people talked about the Mulberry trials which must have had a big impact on such a small community. They were certainly capable of keeping a secret!

The village today comprises a small port on the east coast of The Machars in the former county of Wigtownshire. Its origins date back to the 1780s when Lord Garlies planned and built a small port on the sheltered shores of what later became known as Garlieston Bay. By 1800 Garlieston had a population of 500 and provided port facilities for 10 trading vessels. A pier was built to expand the harbour’s capacity in 1816. Local industry also expanded to include the manufacture of sailcloth and ropes and the construction of ships. At the start of the 1900s special excursions to the Isle of Man were popular with easy access by rail down to the harbour quayside to waiting steamers. However, during the great depression of the 1930s the excursions ceased and the railway closed in 1950.

In common with many ports in rural Scotland, Garlieston's role as a commercial port has been replaced by leisure activities including yachting, other leisure craft and a conveniently located Caravan Club site. In addition, there is an excellent exhibition entitled “GARLIESTON’S SECRET WAR”. The exhibition includes photographs and commentary highlighting Garlieston’s role in the Mulberry Harbour development. There is also an excellent model of a Mulberry harbour and a video presentation featuring the Mulberry Harbours and D-Day together with books and souvenirs.

Kind regards

Jim Aitken

Mulberry Recycled! In the region of Lorraine, in the district of Cattenom, on the D 56, there is a bridge across the River Moselle. It is made of sections of roadway from one of the Mulberry harbours. The sections made the long journey to Lorraine and 60 years later the bridge is still being used. Congratulations to the English iron and steel industry! Olivier Berbach, Jarney, France. (Jan 06)

Mulberry at Dungeness. We visited Gairleston in Scotland last year and were interested to find that experimenting had been done there for the Mulberry Harbour. I live near Dungeness at Littlestone. You will be aware that bits of the Harbour broke away and one piece landed off our beach. It's still clearly visible to this day. It is now a memorial where wreaths are placed from time to time. I enclose a photograph. Several houses by the beach have Mulberry in their names.  Norma Oakeley.

Mulberry at Aldwick. These dramatic and atmospheric shots are of a long abandoned  "Beetle" on the beach at Aldwick near Bognor Regis, on the south coast of England. Beetles were concrete and steel floats or pontoons that supported the roadways. Each was capable of carrying 56 tons + 25 tons - the weight of a tank. Photos provided by Richard Carford.

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Photo of single poppy.Events and Places to Visit

Organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our  webpage free of charge. Everyone else: Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us know. To notify an event or place of interest, click here. To visit the webpage click here.

Photo of single poppy.Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE).

Photo of single poppy.Combined Operations Handbook (Far East)

The handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Photo of single poppy.New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to this complex subject.

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