A number of Mulberry Phoenix caissons still exist today, the one off Shoeburyness an example of a Phoenix that broke away from its anchor during repositioning after construction. Several Beetles remain on the shore near Garlieston and Marchwood and another Phoenix pair, in Portland harbour. Two Phoenix were unable to be re-floated and are a dive attraction off Selsey Bill. The Crocodile at Garlieston could be clearly seen until 2006 when a storm destroyed it. A number of Whale roadways were used as bridges in Northern France, some still in use.
As part of the D-Day 70 commemoration activities the UK Hydrographic Office conducted a very detailed survey of the remains of the Phoenix caissons and blockships at Arromanches, Mulberry B.
In 1953, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands suffered at the hands of a severe flood (Watersnoodramp) caused by a heavy storm and high tides. Wikipedia has good background but to summarise, the devastation was massive. The UK death toll exceeded 300 but in the Netherlands, it was over 1,800.
The war had seen many of the dikes used for military fortifications and maintenance activity had slowed down or ceased completely. During the post war rebuilding phase many of the repairs were of the expedient type and it was later noted that some of these areas were the first to give way to the combined effect of storm and tide.
After the immediate rescue and recovery activities had completed there were many gaps in the sea defences to close. Most of these were completed in a relatively short period but some of the larger and more complex gaps would need a great deal of heavy duty construction. Compounding the reconstruction was the twice daily tide and amount of damage.
The Allies had previously used surplus D Day Phoenix Mulberry Harbour caissons for a similar task in 1945 and 1946 on the island of Walcheren so the same technique was proposed. After extensive scale modelling eight Phoenix caissons were floated over from the UK although some were lost in heavy seas during the journey. Over a period of several months they were used to close the gaps in destroyed sea defences in a number of locations.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this little known story is that they are still there. The actual sea defences no longer rely on the caissons but the Dutch decided to turn them into a museum, a museum that commemorates the floods and those involved. On 6 November 2003, 50 years after the closing of the last breach at Ouwerkerk, the four caissons and the surrounding area were awarded National Monument status by the Minister of the Interior, Johan Remkes; and from that day were known as the National Monument Watersnood 1953 .
Since 2001 a museum has been sited in one of the caissons, click here to view the museums website.
Perhaps the most interesting post war story is that of the pier head design. It was based on a dredging platform design and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Berghavn dredger was built in 1980 by the very same Lobnitz company that designed the Mulberry Pier heads and after a refurbishment in 1980 is still in service with the Norwegian company, Secora
Does it look familiar!
Table of Contents