|In December 1943, construction commenced in the UK of
components for pre-fabricated artificial harbours to be sited on the coast
of Normandy for the supply of Allied forces to be landed in 'Operation
Overlord', the invasion of Europe which started 6th June 1944.
It was initially thought that a workforce of 30,000 people would be
needed to build these components, however at peak effort, 45,000 people
were employed nationwide in building the diverse parts.
The different units had a variety of code names eg 'Phoenixes' which
were concrete caissons; 'Bombardons' were steel tanks and 'Gooseberries'
old ships used as breakwaters.
At Wivenhoe, two 'Whales', pier heads were built on the marshland area,
now known as Old Ferry Marsh, adjacent to the upstream Wivenhoe shipyard.
Some of the concrete crane bases and rail-lines used in their construction
were visible until at least 1986.
These two pier heads were made of welded steel with concrete infill and
were 200 feet long and 60 feet wide. the mould depth at the sides were 10
feet. There were equipped with 4 'Spuds' or legs at the corners. Each Spud
leg was 89 feet long with 'feet' 4 feet square. On these Spuds, which were
operated by electric winches with reduction gearing, the 'Whale' could be
raised or lowered to compensate for the tide.
Two Mulberry Harbours were actually assembled on the French coast, one
for the American beachhead and one for the British at Arromanches.
Despite the American harbour being wrecked by heavy weather after 4
days use, the Harbours played a vital part in the success of 'Operation
Overlord'. In the first 6 days of use of the British Mulberry, 326,000
troops, 54,000 vehicles and 100,000 tons of supplies were handled.
Note: Wivenhoe Town Council arranged for one of the new roads in Old
Wivenhoe Quay to be named Mulberry Harbour Way in memory of the
construction of part of the Mulberry Harbours at Wivenhoe. Mulberry
Harbour Way is about 100 metres east of where the 'Whale' Units were