|Schematic of main components of the|
Arromanches Mulberry Harbour, from the
Combined Operations Command website
So what were Mulberry Harbours and why were they so important? "Mulberries" were designed to meet a logistical problem to an assault on the Normandy beaches that would make a profound difference to the outcome of the war. In 1942 the British attacked the heavily fortified town of Dieppe and were turned back. But if British troops were to be landed in France, some part of the French coast would have to be breached, and it was decided that the beaches of Normandy would be the best option. But there were two problems. First, any invasion would require huge numbers of men and heavy equipment, and with no infrastructure in place to receive, unload, process and supply the invasion, and the difficulties inherent in capturing a suitable port posted a potentially massive problem. Second, troops and supplies were to be landed directly on the beaches but the coastline of Normandy featured long and shallow inclines, meaning that at low tide boats could not approach near enough to the shore to offload their cargoes. But these was the sort of problems that the armed forces were expert at solving. Churchill had had a similar idea in 1917 to cope with the capture of two islands in the Danish-Dutch seas, but the man usually credited with the idea of the Mulberry Harbours is Hugh Iorys Hughes whose brother Commodore John Hughes-Hallet presented it to the Navy. Whoever it was who came up with the idea, it was concluded that if a harbour could not be captured, then a harbour should be built, transported and then installed wherever it was needed. These were the Mulberry Harbours.
|Surviving Phoenix caisson breakwater components|
at Arromanches. Sourced from Wikipedia
|Diagram showing how the piers were deployed at high and low tides. From|
Chris Bridges. Mulberries and Goodberries. http://www.hksw.org/despatches_107_1_a.htm
After various experimental prototypes were tested, two Mulberries were assembled for deployment: Mulberry A at Omaha beach, and Mulberry B at Arromanches, each with an intended capacity of 7000 tons of vehicles and supplies a day.
|Artist's impression of a Phoenix caisson, showing hw|
they were shaped to resemble lighters.
From the war44.com website
|Phoenix' concrete caissons, part of the Mulberry artificial harbour,
being constructed in Surrey Docks in Rotherhithe, London,
17 April 1944. Imperial War Museum H37607
|Surviving Phoenix units at Portland Harbour|
|Mulberry Harbour B. Photograph from Mulberries and Goosberries by Chris Bridges.|
My brief article has looked at Mulberry Harbours through a Rotherhithe-centric lens, and the main sources for the post are listed here, but if you are interested in Mulberry Harbours and want to find out more, there is a lot more information about them all over the web, and of course in some excellent books about the Second World War.
- Chris Bridges. Mulberries and Goodberries. http://www.hksw.org/despatches_107_1_a.htm
- Combined Operations Command website Mulberry Harbours http://www.combinedops.com/Mulberry%20Harbours.htm
- Stuart Rankin. Maritime Rotherhithe History Walks, Walk B: Shipwyards, Granaries and Wharves. Southwark Council 2005
- Michael F. Kennard. The Building of Mulberry Harbour. The War Illustrated, Volume 10, No. 255, Page 771-772, April 11, 1947 http://www.thewarillustrated.info/255/the-building-of-mulberry-harbour.asp
And a HUGE thank-you to Michele of the What's On In Rotherhithe Group (http://www.se16-worg.co.uk) for pointing me to the photograph of Phoenix units being built in South Dock.