Invasion success is celebrated at Duxford Imperial War Museum
PUBLISHED: 16:02 15 April 2016
Darren Harbar Photography
Part of an inventive solution which helped the success of the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944 has been unveiled at Duxford.
The Imperial War Museum is the new home for the Whale, a floating roadway section from Mulberry Harbour B, which was vital to the success of armed forces following the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.
It is the only object of its type in the UK and has been donated by Les Amis du Pont Bailey and transportation from France paid for by the family of Major Allan Beckett, the Whale designer.
The Whale was recovered in the 1950s from the remains at Arromanches on the British Gold Beach. It was used as a road bridge over the River Vire at Pont-Farcy until flooding caused damage to the concrete supporting the bridge in 1990. The contractor employed to dispose of the Whale decided not to sell it for scrap. In 2008, the Whale was gifted to Les Amis.
Major Beckett’s wife Ida joined Les Amis at the event on Saturday (April 9).
Christopher Long, of Les Amis, said: “I feel proud of England and of Imperial War Museums in particular. It has taken me eight years to save this bridge and in the end the museum pretty much did my job for me.”
Mrs Beckett said: “I feel very proud of my husband’s achievements. He was such a modest man, I think he’d think it was a lot of fuss about nothing. I think it’s wonderful, it is a reminder to us all of such an engineering feat. It was quite remarkable.”
James Taylor, assistant director of narrative and content at Imperial War Museums, added: “Whales were floating roadways that were integral to the Mulberry harbours built immediately after the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June, 1944.
“Our Whale span comes from the British Mulberry at Arromanches and is an extraordinary feat of engineering in itself.
After the failed attempt to capture Dieppe harbour in 1942, commanders thought there was no chance of securing a port in an invasion so planners designed a floating harbour.
Two Mulberry harbours were towed across the Channel and built after the D-Day landings.
The harbours were made up of block ships, concrete caissons and floating pier heads. Bridge sections, codenamed Whale, connected the piers to the beach.
The Whales were designed to flex in all directions to withstand waves.
“The Whales helped ensure that soldiers, vehicles and supplies could be brought ashore to take part in the campaign to liberate continental Europe from Nazi domination and to bring to an end a regime that had brought death and suffering to millions.”