The Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches
After the costly Allied raid on Dieppe in 1942 in
which over three thousand Canadians were either killed, injured or taken
prisoner, it was realised by the chiefs of staff that no port on the coast of
France would be taken by a frontal attack.
The idea of an artificial harbour was first put forward by Admiral Mountbatten,
who is reported as saying "if we cannot capture a port, we must take one with
The idea was approved at the Quebec conference in 1943.
The Army had since the Dieppe raid been working on the idea of a floating
A young engineer Alan Bekett, had devised a twisting floating roadway, which he
was told to present to the committee in charge of implementing the plan.
He built a balsa wood model in great haste and even painted it. He wrapped it in
paper and went to the planning meeting.
What impressed the chiefs of staff was the camouflage, which in essence was bits
of the paper the still wet model had been wrapped in.
The plan was approved, but rivalry between the Army and Navy caused problems.
The decision was made that the harbour would be operated by the army, with the
navy designing the outer barrages "Bombardons".
The rest of the two harbours would be built and supervised by the army. Mulberry
One was to be sited on Omaha beach and Mulberry Two at Arromanches in the
The project was huge with construction being undertaken all over Britain. Over
400 different components were used and 1.5 million tons of materials consumed in
the two harbours.
The port was designed to have a life span of ninety days and be capable of
unloading 11,000 tons of supplies each day.
The first elements started their journey across the Channel on the morning of
D-day arriving late in the evening.
The towing operation would take fifteen days and involve thirty five convoys.