Operation Overlord and D-Day
"For every man that died at Dieppe, ten were saved on
Admiral Lord Mountbatten
The Allies faced a huge problem in planning an invasion of France -
they needed a port. It was accepted during the planning for the
D-day operation that it would be difficult to capture the German
controlled harbours on the channel coast. Cherbourg, Dieppe and St.
Malo were heavily fortified and defended; it would take far too
long and be too costly to attempt to take them. Even when captured
it was unlikely that they would be operational.
In August 1942 the Allies launched a disastrous raid on Dieppe
and had learned a costly lesson. It was an experimental assault to
see how a large-scale attack would fair. Two thirds of the force
were killed or captured within hours and German forces were well
prepared for the attack. It was clear that more sophisticated
amphibious equipment was necessary and rapid support for the troops
landing in Europe would be essential to consolidate any gains. A
cunning solution was needed.
The answer? The idea was conceived, possibly by Churchill
himself, of building harbours in Britain and floating them over to
France. This imaginative solution could take the enemy unawares,
but would need extraordinary secrecy, planning and engineering
skill. Two of these floating harbours were to be built under the
pontoon with Spuds at each corner
The Mulberries were formed of over 600 components in all. The most
significant parts were the hollow concrete breakwaters
codenamed 'Phoenix Caissons' that could be sunk when they
arrived in France to form the main body of the harbour. To this
were added 'Bombardons' or steel floats 200ft long
moored off the artificial harbours to break up incoming waves. With
steel in short supply, old battle damaged vessels were to be
scuttled alongside the harbour to bolster any shortages of Phoenix
components, and were given the codename 'Gooseberries'
or 'Corncobs'. Within each of the protected areas
there were three floating piers, or 'Whales' connected to
the shore by floating steel roadways. The Whales used adjustable
legs called 'Spuds' anchored to the seabed, to enable them to
work whatever the state of the tide. The floating roads were named
The bold idea had become a reality, but where was this
secret work completed?