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Mulberry Harbour

Mulberry Harbour at Littlestone
Mulberry Harbour off Littlestone (ack.29)

A Mulberry harbour was a portable temporary harbour developed by the British in World War II to facilitate rapid offloading of cargo onto the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Part of one of the harbours is visible at low tide off Littlestone. It survives remarkably intact and is now an Ancient Scheduled Monument.

The harbour was built in 1943-4 from Phoenix caissons, floatable breakwater components which effectively created a mobile port facility, designed to sink or
float as necessary. Two prefabricated or artificial military harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel from Britain with the invading army and assembled off the coast of Normandy.

As part of the D-Day invasion of France in 1944, and they were used by the Allies to land troops and arms at Normandy as part of Operation Overlord.

Its location, stuck in sand and silt on the sea floor off Littlestone-on-Sea, illustrates the logistical problems involved in the invasion, as it remains where it was 'parked' prior to D-Day after it proved impossible to re-float and tow it across the English Channel.

Mulberry harbour, Arromanches Normandy Landing, June 1944
Mulberry Harbour, Arromanches Normandy Landing, June 1944
© National Maritime Museum

English Heritage's Ancient Scheduled Monument listing describes the harbour at LIttlestone:

'The monument comprises a single Phoenix caisson, resting on the sea bed and exposed at low tide. It is approximately 200 ft (61m) in length, 32 ft (10m) wide. The height is unclear from current information but, depending on the type of caisson, will be between 24 and 60ft high (7-18m). It is constructed of a steel framework with concrete base and walls around 0.3m thick. The interior is divided into nine sections, open to the sky. These are further divided by a spine wall creating 18 square cells. Some of these retain their diagonal steel tension bars. Later navigation lights are mounted at the four corners on steel posts.'

The harbour at Littlestone is one of only six known examples of Phoenix caissons in British waters. The others can be found in Portland Harbour, Dorset, (two caissons listed Grade II) Shoebury Ness, Essex, (scheduled) Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth and off Pagham, West Sussex.

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Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, France, June 1944