Arromanches Mulberry Harbour and the Bailey Bridge at Pont-Farcy
Commemoration of the Battle of Normandy 08-08-2009
The following text was prepared for an Open Day at the Bailey Bridge at Pont-Farcy on 6 June 2009 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings on the Normandy coast. in 1944.
The same text, slightly modified, was used for an explanatory panel (see picture right) which was unveiled at a commemoration and inauguration ceremony at the bridge on 8th August 2009.
par Christopher Long
THIS BAILEY BRIDGE formed part of the artificial harbour at Arromanches in 1944. It may even be the Bailey bridge visible in the foreground of the photograph below.
After the war, in 1958, it was brought from Arromanches to form a temporary bridge across the Vire between Pont-Farcy and Fourneaux.
By the autumn of 2008 it was the last physical evidence of the Battle of Normandy in the bocage and Les Amis du Pont Bailey therefore campaigned to preserve it as an eternal memorial to all those who helped to liberate occupied France.
ON D-DAY the 6th June 1944, allied troops crossed the Channel in a convoy of more than 5,000 vessels.
Near Ranville, British commandos took the strategic bridges 'Pegasus' on the Caen Canal, while thousands of paratroopers were dropped behind the German lines. French resistance activists were unleashed.
Civilians in Normandy had already endured several days of preparatory Allied bombardments.
From 06:30 hours, 69,000 British landed on 'Sword' and 'Gold' beaches near Arromanches while 177 French commandos led by their commander Philippe Keiffer landed on the British left wing.
Nearer to Caen, 15,000 Canadians landed on 'Juno' beach while, much further to the west, 73,000 Americans landed on 'Omaha' and 'Utah' beaches, not far from Carentan.
During the following three months hundreds of thousands of reinforcements crossed the Channel.
THE TWO ARTIFICIAL HARBOURS were built three days later, having been towed in pieces across the Channel. Mulberry 'A', destined for the Americans at Omaha, was virtually destroyed during a violent storm on 19th June.
Mulberry 'B' at Arromanches, served British needs from June to August 1944 and its remains are still visible today.
The idea of liberating occupied Europe by towing these ports in kit-form to the French coast came directly from British prime minister Winston Churchill on 30 May 1942.
Designed by British engineers they were built in 1943-44 in total secrecy by 50,000 workers in hundreds of construction yards throughout the British Isles.
The two harbours were gigantic. Each consisted of 600,000 tons of concrete with 33 jetties linked by nearly 10 miles of floating roadway. The harbour wall, about 6 miles long, consisted of 146 'caissons', each weighing 6,000 tons and the equivalent of five-storey buildings.
In the ten months following D-Day, 2,500,000 men, 500,000 vehicles and 4,000,000 tons of supplies passed through the Arromanches harbour, destined for British, Canadian and French forces. The port of Cherbourg served the Americans once they had liberated it.
THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY was planned in summer 1942 as soon as the Americans arrived in England, at last side by side with the British.
Churchill and Roosevelt became commanders-in-chief and General Dwight D. Eisenhower chief of 'Operation Overlord'. Hundreds of thousands of Americans trained alongside the British and Canadians. Field-Marshal Bernard Montgomery became commander of all the Allied armies in Normandy.
Roughly speaking, the Anglo-Canadian and French forces were ordered to liberate Calvados and Orne, strongly defended by German panzer divisions, while the Americans, mostly to the west of the River Vire, were charged with liberating Manche, Britanny and northern Mayenne.
Finally, the Allies met up in Orne and the German army was then crushed near Falaise between the encircling arms of the Anglo-Canadian and American forces.
BAILEY BRIDGES were invented by the British civil servant Sir Donald Bailey in the 1920s. Deployed throughout the world in the Second World War, their usefulness was truly appreciated in the Norman 'bocage'.
While essential to the artificial harbours, hundreds of others were used throughout Normandy during the battle.
Scarcely a single road or rail bridge had survived the fighting, some having been sabotaged by the Germans to slow down the Allied advance, while others had been destroyed by the Allies to prevent the Germans reteating. Destroyed bridges were immediately replaced by Bailey bridges to allow the Allies to pursue the enemy.
Many of these bridges survived throughout the countryside long after the war, but by 2008 this one was the last still in use in Calvados. There remains another near Carentan, in Manche, still in its original location.
ON 17 JUNE this Bailey bridge, which had linked Pont-Farcy with Fourneaux across the Vire for 50 years, was about to be destroyed as a new bridge was being built to replace it.
Since it was the last physical evidence in the countryside of the greatest battle of the greatest war of all time, a group of volunteers, Les Amis du Pont Bailey immediately set out to preserve it as a permanent memorial to all our Liberators and to our Liberation.
Very generously the Manche Préfecture gave us the bridge while, equally generously, the Calvados Conseil Général granted us permission to use this site.
ON 5 OCTOBER twenty-four sappers of the Corps of the Royal Engineers came out from England to dismantle the bridge and to re-build here six of its original nine sections.
The entire project was achieved and financed thanks to the good-will and generosity of more than 170 'friends' without any call for public funding.
ON 17 OCTOBER in the presence of the sappers and about 250 guests, two commorative plaques were unveiled by the Sous-préfet de Vire and a colonel representing Her Majesty's armed forces.
ON 8 AUGUST this panel was unveiled during a commemorative ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the Liberation.
Close to this panel is the start of a beautiful and peaceful trail which follows the river Vire as far as Carentan. There at its end is another Bailey bridge. These two steel veterans witnessed catastrophic events which led to our liberation.
The Battle of Normandy
British and Canadians killed or missing : 25,231
British and Canadians wounded : 58,594
Americans killed or missing : 30,966
Americans wounded : 94,881
Allied airmen killed : 16,714
German forces killed, missing or wounded : ±200,000
French forces (SAS commando) killed : 78
French forces (SAS commando) wounded : 195
French civilians killed : ± 19,000
In the twenty-seven cemeteries of the Battle of Normandy lies the bodies of : Dans les vingt-sept cimetières de la Bataille de Normandy reposent les corps de :
17,769 British, 9,386 Americans, 5,002 Canadians, 650 Poles and 77,866 German troops.
Bailey Bridge 17-06-08 Dumped
Bailey Bridge 06-10-08 Dismantling
Bailey Bridge 08-10-08 Terracing
Bailey Bridge 10-10-08 Transporting
Bailey Bridge 11-10-08 Rebuilding
Bailey Bridge 14-10-08 Painting
Bailey Bridge 15-10-08 Decking
Bailey Bridge 16-10-08 Completed
Bailey Bridge 17-10-08 Opening Ceremony
Bailey Bridge 17-10-08 Aftermath
Bailey Bridge 17-10-08 Unused Parts
Bailey Bridge 08-08-09 Inauguration
© (2009) Christopher A. Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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