Mulberry Harbour Conundrum, any Experts?

#21
From the "Mulberry Harbour by Geoffrey Futter" series in Airfix Magazine.

Vol. 23 No. 6; February 1982; Part 7:

"Mulberry Harbour comprised three main elements; these being breakwaters, pierheads and floating roadways which connected the pierheads to the shore. The breakwaters, which consisted of the 'Bombardon' floating breakwaters situated outside the harbour limits to shelter deep water shipping, the 'Gooseberry' blockship breakwaters and the 'Phoenix' reinforced concrete caisson permanent harbour breakwaters...

...The pierheads, and the floating roadways together with a number of associated devices and equipment, were collectively code-named 'Whale'."
Aha! Much obliged; definitely my recollection from rather a long time ago!
 
#22
That could fit, because I just turned up this little bit:


Key phrase there is 'Pierhead pontoon'. Which in modern parlance seems to be the 'Spud'. I just wish I could find some close up pictures of the structures and main deck on the spuds to confirm it.
The pictures will be out there somewhere!
 
#23
From the "Mulberry Harbour by Geoffrey Futter" series in Airfix Magazine.

Vol. 23 No. 6; February 1982; Part 7:

"Mulberry Harbour comprised three main elements; these being breakwaters, pierheads and floating roadways which connected the pierheads to the shore. The breakwaters, which consisted of the 'Bombardon' floating breakwaters situated outside the harbour limits to shelter deep water shipping, the 'Gooseberry' blockship breakwaters and the 'Phoenix' reinforced concrete caisson permanent harbour breakwaters...

...The pierheads, and the floating roadways together with a number of associated devices and equipment, were collectively code-named 'Whale'."
Thanks, that has pretty much cemented what Truxx suggested.

Check out this kindle book on Amazon - it's got the story of the development of plastic armour.

The Wheezers & Dodgers: The Inside Story of Clandestine Weapon Development in World War II

It was billed as the only armour plate that will take a drawing pin...

Wordsmith
Trouble is as I do research, I've gone off books, because why read someone else when I can get the documents from the original source and be sure I've got everything. Yes, I've turned into a source snob.
Plus I'm contemplating writing it up myself possibly for a book.

I wonder does it include the Malayan stuff as well as the Indian stuff?

The pictures will be out there somewhere!
And it'll be a fun surprise seeing how much I get charged for them!
 
#24
An interesting (and readable) book on the Mulberries was "The Far Shore" by Rear Admira Edward Ellsberg USN. RADM Ellsberg was an engineer and spent much of his career involved with sunken subs, marine salvage and reopening harbors blocked by sunken ships.
Actually anything by Ellsberg is interesting and readable. "Under The Red Seas Sun" is a great read.
 
#26
These things were also known as Lobnitz Piers which may add another dimension to your searching!
An image of the deck - I think.
42236513200_d6cb0fa668_b.jpg


And another.
6142_654_LD122_prolongLobnitz_v.jpg

Yet another book!
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#27
Trouble is as I do research, I've gone off books, because why read someone else when I can get the documents from the original source and be sure I've got everything. Yes, I've turned into a source snob.
Plus I'm contemplating writing it up myself possibly for a book.

I wonder does it include the Malayan stuff as well as the Indian stuff?
Can't lay my hands on my copy at the moment - my house is rather full of books. But plastic armour was first developed in the early years of the war to provide some lightweight protection for merchant ships who were poor armed/protected against air attack. It was a mixture of asphalt and granite chippings, backed by a thin sheet of steel. It proved surprisingly good at stooping ordnance and was a lot cheaper and lighter than armour plate.

Plastic armour - Wikipedia

Wordsmith
 
#28
Anyway have a bit of Mayberry trivia. As part of my Mulberry education we were (reliably?) informed that the overarching code name for the project was chosen because it was the type of tree growing in the quadrangle of The Royal School Bath where, in much secrecy, the concept was born and subsequently developed.
 
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#29
These things were also known as Lobnitz Piers which may add another dimension to your searching!
An image of the deck - I think.
View attachment 378314

And another.
View attachment 378315
Yet another book!
The top one could be viable proof, but its not conclusive. Here's what the stuff looks like when on a ship:


The bottom one, however provides a few problems, namely colour. Here's what it looks like in real life:
plastic armour


Can't lay my hands on my copy at the moment - my house is rather full of books. But plastic armour was first developed in the early years of the war to provide some lightweight protection for merchant ships who were poor armed/protected against air attack. It was a mixture of asphalt and granite chippings, backed by a thin sheet of steel. It proved surprisingly good at stooping ordnance and was a lot cheaper and lighter than armour plate.
From what you're saying you're referring to the Mk.I Plastic armour, which was never really about weight. But rather effective protection. It is a rather important substance that has never really been given its time in the sun. in the US alone the cost of Steel that this technology saved amounted to eight figures, and was well on its way to the 9th. I'm still trying to find a price per ton of steel so I can work out how many tons that saved. Willing to bet its worth a carrier or two, or even a big chunk of the Sherman tank production

It wasn't really surpassed until stuff like Doron and Kevlar started showing up in the 1950's. It also had some unique properties that likely started work on composite armours.
 
#30
I do find it amazing the level of innovation in the UK during the second world, which we subsequently failed to capitalise on or gave away for free. The Mulberry Harbours a case in point the engineering acumen (Ove Arup etc) that went into them is phenomenal and I don't think we could repeat it today. Look at Crossrail, just a couple of decades after the Channel Tunnel rail link!!!

YM
 
#31
Forgive me if somebody has already said this but that thing you pictured (outside the Land War hangar?) is, I believe just one element of Whale. Wasn't Whale the entire construction of multi-element roadway that ran from beach to dock head? If so, that would explain how it would have the features you describe. I may be wrong, of course.....
 
#32
I do find it amazing the level of innovation in the UK during the second world, which we subsequently failed to capitalise on or gave away for free. The Mulberry Harbours a case in point the engineering acumen (Ove Arup etc) that went into them is phenomenal and I don't think we could repeat it today. Look at Crossrail, just a couple of decades after the Channel Tunnel rail link!!!

YM
Agreed. 10 years after designing and building the Lancaster bomber the same team gave the world the Vulcan. 10 years. Others, equally talented, having perfected the jet engine and the atom bomb in the meantime.

For some inexplicable reason we have forgotten that we are (or were) seriously seriously good at shit.
 
#33
I do find it amazing the level of innovation in the UK during the second world, which we subsequently failed to capitalise on or gave away for free. The Mulberry Harbours a case in point the engineering acumen (Ove Arup etc) that went into them is phenomenal and I don't think we could repeat it today. Look at Crossrail, just a couple of decades after the Channel Tunnel rail link!!!

YM
The UKs always been a rather innovative country, and in many cases we didn’t just give them away. Lend lease was a wonderful thing, but the Americans weren’t going to fund us until we’d spent all of our money and cashed in our assets first.

You don’t need to look at cross rail, versus Mulberry to see how things can be done in a timely manner. Look how quickly we built railways by hand back in Victorian times. We can do things quickly when action is forced through and pressure groups sidelined. Do you think anybody cared about wetlands with rare beeeds if Newts or negative impact on property value in WW2? Christ, we managed to forcibly move entire villages in WW2.
 
#34
Agreed. 10 years after designing and building the Lancaster bomber the same team gave the world the Vulcan. 10 years. Others, equally talented, having perfected the jet engine and the atom bomb in the meantime.

For some inexplicable reason we have forgotten that we are (or were) seriously seriously good at shit.
Years of negative press by the Guardian readership.
 
#36
Forgive me if somebody has already said this but that thing you pictured (outside the Land War hangar?) is, I believe just one element of Whale. Wasn't Whale the entire construction of multi-element roadway that ran from beach to dock head? If so, that would explain how it would have the features you describe. I may be wrong, of course.....
Correct, Hartcup states that Whale is the code name given to floating pierheads and roadways used in Mulberry to cross water and mud gaps and to berth coasters.

@Listy: Hardcup used the following PRO files (as indicated by his endnotes/references):

PRO/ADM/199/1614
PRO/ADM/199/1615
PRO/ADM/199/1616
PRO/ADM/199/1617
PRO/ADM/199/1618
PRO/ADM53/119240
PRO/CAB/88/15
PRO/CAB/119/83
PRO/DEF2/58
PRO/DEF2/144
PRO/DEF2/428
PRO/DEF2/438
PRO/DEF2/529
PRO/DEF2/501
PRO/DEF2/907
PRO/DEF2/945
PRO/DEF2/948-950
PRO/DEF2/1063
PRO/PREM/3/216/1
PRO/PREM/3/216/7
PRO/WO/32/12211
PRO/WO/165/106 Pt III
PRO/WO/166/12073
PRO/WO171/1418
PRO/WO171/1733
PRO/WO171/1737
PRO/WO171/1754

The Select Bibliography is something of a disappointment apart from the following item:

Institution of Civil Engineers. The Civil Engineer in War, vol 2, Docks and Harbours, 1948. A collection of papers read at a symposium by engineers involved in the development of the Mulberry components. The discussions are of particular value.

The following paper is included in the above collection and may be of interest to you:

Beckett, AH. "Some Aspects of the Design of Flexible Bridging, including Whale Floating Roadways", The Civil Engineer in War, Vol 2, op cit, pp 385-400, 1948

Hardcup refers to the following institutions holding material on Mulberry harbours:

PRO
IWM
Institution of Civil Engineers
Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Society of Engineers

Source:

Hartcup, Guy. Code Name Mulberry: The Planning, Building & Operation of the Normandy Harbours. Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2011. ISBN 978-1-84884-558-9 (First published in 1977 by David and Charles)
 
#37
This plastic armour...

...isn't it just the same stuff that had been around for years and went by the name of tarmac?

While I can see the advantages of it absorbing bullets and splinters, it can't have been much fun to have around in a fire.
 
#38
This plastic armour...

...isn't it just the same stuff that had been around for years and went by the name of tarmac?

While I can see the advantages of it absorbing bullets and splinters, it can't have been much fun to have around in a fire.
In short, No. There is a specific set of changes. Indeed the way they got clued onto it was from a deck sheathing that resembles tarmac.
As to the fire risk, well lets put it another way, they attacked it for several minutes with a blow torch in an attempt to get it to catch. Also if memory serves they triggers a couple of incendiary bombs on a slab of the stuff.
All no effect. Equally preparation is an 450 deg C cooker, again If memory is correct.
 
#39
In short, No. There is a specific set of changes. Indeed the way they got clued onto it was from a deck sheathing that resembles tarmac.
As to the fire risk, well lets put it another way, they attacked it for several minutes with a blow torch in an attempt to get it to catch. Also if memory serves they triggers a couple of incendiary bombs on a slab of the stuff.
All no effect. Equally preparation is an 450 deg C cooker, again If memory is correct.
I wasn't thinking in terms of it igniting, more of the molten stickiness and fumes. It would start to soften at around 90 centigrade and act as a viscous fluid at around 120 centigrade. Being in contact with the stuff would be horrendous as the only way to remove it would be by soaking with diesel.
 
#40
There's me thinking the whale units actually included the lozenge shaped pontoons ("floats") which were both steel and concrete (there are quite a few of the latter still on the banks of Southampton Water

I do know a chap in MOD who pulled the entire mulberry file from the Public Records Office (we needed it for part of the 60th Anniversary of D Day)
As it happened old bean,, dug out my scan of the history the other day to help the D-Day 75 planners...

The document is called THE STORY OF THE MULBERRIES, written in 1947 for the War Office by Rear Admiral Hickling (NOIC of Mulberry B) and Brigadier Mackillop (DQMG(Movements) 21 Army Group). It is a combination of engineering and operational history.

The photo from the OP looks to be an 80 feet span of floating roadway. WHALE referred, as others have said, to the overall equipment package to provide quickly erected piers to "provide continuous alongside discharge on flat beaches with a tidal range of up to 30 feet... able to withstand rough weather." It was one of the four main component packages, the others being the blockships, the BOMBARDON floating breakwater, and the PHOENIX caisson harbour-walls. The blockships and BOMBARDONS were naval responsibilities, PHOENIX and WHALE Army responsibilities.

WHALE comprised two principal parts:

a) the SPUD pontoon pier-head; and
b) the flexible floating roadway to link the pier-heads to each other, and, more importantly, connect them to the shore. Came in two classes - Class 40 for tanks, Class 25 for 10 ton lorries plus trailers.

The authors comment that the floating roadway was the most difficult design problem of the whole of the Mulberry project, and luckily one of the first to be tackled. The 80 foot spans as shown in the picture do not seem to have had a specific codename, but the pontoons on which they floated were BEETLES, so called as they were turtle-backed to dampen the wave motions. The BEETLES were also designed so that rubber bags could be inserted easily in them and inflated by a work boat as a temporary fix should they suffer strafing or bomb damage, to reduce the number of occasions a roadway would have to be shut down to allow a pontoon to be replaced. The BEETLES could also be fitted with legs to stop them coming into contact with seabed rocks at low tide. Beehive charges were used by divers to create anchor points for the BEETLES in rock.

There was also a variant span, which was telescopic and could vary between 71 and 80 feet - these were used every four or five standard spans, to cope with the extremes of spring tides - the problem otherwise would have been that you could not build the roadway at a neap tide, and not then suffer embarrassment when the springs rolled in. They were also used to connect the pierheads to each other - as the authors comment, it would otherwise have been "very tedious" to position the pierheads precisely 80 feet apart...

Worth mentioning, if not known, that each roadway span could twist safely up to 18 degrees end to end.

Overall WHALE production was 23 SPUD pontoon pierheads, plus 7 miles of floating roadway spans and BEETLES - 50,000 tons of steelwork made at 240 different factories in the UK, with assembly in the Clyde, at Southampton, and at Richborough. There was a back-up alternate design for the BEETLES in reinforced concrete, since steel-plate was a bottleneck, but these could only be used at the seaward end of the roadways as they did not handle grounding well. In any case, too many concrete BEETLES would in turn have risked a bottleneck on the construction of PHOENIX.
 

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