On Tuesday 6th June 1944, exactly 69 years ago, British, Canadian and American forces landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe. Glasgow University Archive Services keep many records and documents related to this crucial historical event, and to mark its 69th anniversary we would like to present an impressive example of British engineering.
If you visit some of the D-Day beaches today, you can still see some enormous metallic caissons off the coast. They are the remains of the Mulberry ports, that is to say moveable harbours which played an essential part in the success of the landings, as they were vital for bringing supplies and reinforcements onto the continent after D-Day, right up until 1945. The Mulberry ports comprised three parts: the “pierheads” or landing pontoons, the floating roadways to move around on these platforms, and the breakwaters to create a sheltered expanse of water.
The design and main research work on the pierheads was undertaken by the Scottish shipbuilding company Lobnitz & Co, Ltd, of Renfrew. Their pierheads were located at the seaward end of the roadways. Each stood on four legs called “spuds” with a platform that could be raised and lowered with the tide by means of electric winches. Hence, they could either be maintained at a constant height above the sea level, or float with the tide, sliding up and down the legs. This design proved to be efficient during the testing period, and thus the pierheads were approved to be built on a large scale.
If you are interested in the history and engineering accomplishments of Lobnitz & Co., you can have a look at their records, which are held by Archive Services, by searching here. This collection also contains a series of photographs of the harbours at Arromanches, which can give an idea of the impressive size of the metallic structures and of the magnitude of the task.
The Mulberry ports were not the only way to land for the thousands of soldiers sent to liberate Normandy on the 6th June 1944. Tank landing crafts were also used: you can find the plans for some of them in the Scotts’ Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd records held in Archive Services. Our shipbuilding collection comprises the plans for some of the 7,000 ships that took part in the landings, as well as many photographs.
by Aline Brodin
Categories: Archive Services