Reflections from Normandy Part 3: Gold Beach

The three beaches attacked by the British and Canadian troops on June 6th 1944

The three beaches attacked by British and Canadian troops on June 6th 1944

Moving westward along the D514 the road climbs from sea level to cliff top and out in the Channel there are irregularly-dotted shapes on the horizon. This is what remains of one of the more astonishing feats of engineering completed in the war: the Mulberry Harbour.

The Mulberry Harbour holds out after 70 years

The vast concrete caissons were towed out immediately in the wake of the invasion fleet – one heading for Omaha Beach and the other to Gold Beach at the coastal resort of Arromanches les Bains. Incredibly, the Arromanches port – Port Winston, as it was known – was complete and operational by June 9th, just two full days after the initial assault.

Bear in mind that Port Winston consisted of 600,000 tons of concrete and 33 jetties to support 10 miles (15 km) of floating roadways and the magnitude of the Royal Engineers’ achievement becomes clear. Despite being designed to last only three months – the Omaha Beach port was destroyed by storms soon after deployment – ‘Port Winston’ was still in full-time use almost a year after D-Day and its total contribution was to bring more than 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies in to Arromanches in support the advancing armies.

A cliff top view of Port Winston’s eastern flank in 2014

Travelling back down from the cliffs, one is swallowed up by the pretty little port of Arromanches itself – although in June 1944 it was in something of a sorry state. Today it is back to its pristine best and is home to the leading museum covering the British role in the D-Day landings and Operation Overlord. It is hard to imagine the narrow, winding streets resounding to the crunch of boots and clank of tank tracks that must have bordered on deafening as, by June 12th, more than 300,000 men, 54,000 vehicles, 104,000 tons of supplies had been landed in the town.

Arromanches reflects the British army’s largest landing ground, Gold Beach

The Arromanches slipway is just yards from the nearest remnants of ‘Port Winston’

After saying a fond farewell to Arromoanches – a very pretty little place today – it was time to press on further up the coast, saying goodbye to the British sector and entering the American zone…

Looking out over Arromanches from the hilltop viewpoint

 

 

 

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