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"A tug towing a section of Mulberry harbour" by Rowland Hilder, 1939-1945. Gouache, ink and charcoal pencil on paper.

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A tug towing a section of Mulberry harbour

"A tug towing a section of Mulberry harbour" by Rowland Hilder, 1939-1945

Catalogue ref: INF 3/802Links to the Catalogue


A tug towing a section of Mulberry harbour loaded with trucks across the English Channel for D-Day. The section in question was known as the ‘Spud' pierhead. The four columns were legs that would be secured to the sea bed, allowing the platform to rise and fall as the tide came in and out. This would then have been attached to floating roadways over which supplies unloaded onto the harbour could be driven to the beach and then inland.

For the D-Day landings to succeed the Allies needed a harbour to supply the invading troops with arms, ammunition and rations. It would be some time before a significant harbour could be captured on the French mainland. The Allies decided to construct two artificial harbours that could be towed across the Channel and would be able handle a significant volume of supplies until a major port was captured.

To make the harbours special basins were excavated along the banks of the Thames. Over 8,000 men worked for eight months to build these floating structures which, when finished together weighed nearly a million tonnes. In addition to the concrete, construction involved 110,000 tonnes of steel.

Establishment of these artificial harbours involved the laying of 146 Phoenix caissons, 600,000 tons of concrete with 33 jetties, and ten miles of floating roadways -all of it towed across the Channel at just over 4 mph.

Around 9,000 tons of material was landed daily at Mulberry B until the end of August when the necessary ports had been captured by the Allies. Mulberry A, the American Mulberry was destroyed in a severe channel storm during the period 19th – 23rd June 1944 and was unable to be used from then onwards.