This site was used for the construction of Phoenix caissons, which were part of the Mulberry Harbours (artificial harbours) – as well as for the embarkation of large numbers of troops.
The use of Mulberry Harbours was vital to the success of D-Day as they allowed thousands of tonnes of vehicles and goods to be unloaded onto the Normandy beaches each day. Tugboats towed construction components for these floating harbours across the Channel before being assembled off the Normandy coast. Two harbours were built in total: ‘Mulberry A’ was constructed at Omaha Beach and ‘Mulberry B’ at Gold. Each harbour required a vast 140,000 tonnes of concrete.
A key part of the Mulberry Harbours was the outer breakwater. To create the breakwater, old ships and concrete Phoenix caissons were sunk in lines to create the breakwater. The Phoenixes were large concrete structures, with hollow chambers inside. They could be floated in order to move them, but when water was let into the internal chambers they would sink onto the sea bottom. These caissons were towed to the harbour site and then sunk in a controlled manner to eventually provide 6 miles of breakwater protection.
Fourteen of these vast caissons were constructed at Stokes Bay, Gosport. Between November 1943 and April 1944, 1,600 men worked day and night under extreme pressure and in dangerous conditions. On one occasion, as a caisson was being launched, it toppled killing three workers.
The beach at Stokes Bay also functioned as an embarkation point, with concrete slabs laid directly onto the beach, creating embarkation ‘hards’ that allowed for lorries and armored vehicles to embark onto landing craft without getting bogged down on the beach.
|Address||PO12 2TR, UK|
|Location type||Troop Embarkation Site|
|Site Ownership and Access Information||Seafront open to the public. Car park at beach side. A pair of memorials commemorate the embarkation of Canadian troops from Stokes Bay, and the construction of Mulberry Harbour components. The building that is now the Stokes Bay Sailing Club was built during the Second World War as the embarkation control point for the Bay.|
|Contact details||Website: http://discovergosport.co.uk/. Postal address: Tourist Information Centre, Bus Station Complex, South Street, Gosport PO12 1GP. Tel: 023 9252 2944.|
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