Gold Beach and the Mulberry Harbour

Map of Sword Beach landing sectors
Map of Sword Beach landing sectors

Gold Beach landing sector spread from Arromanches-les-Bains, near Omaha Beach, to Juno Beach to the east.

The little coastal town is nestled in a cove defended by two cliffs where the Germans installed their batteries.

The British chose Arromanches to build the artificial Mulberry Harbour to offload and transport troops, material and supplies after D-Day.

Gold Beach War Memorials pay tribute to the men who landed on Item, Jig and King sectors.

Gold Beach War Memorials in Arromanches

German bunker on Gold Beach and Arromanches in the background - Gold Beach War Memorials
German bunker on Gold Beach and Arromanches in the background

1- Musée du Débarquement – D-Day Landings Museum

The museum was founded at the initiative of Raymond Triboulet, the first sub-prefect of ‘France Libérée’ and was inaugurated on June 5, 1954.

It is located in town, on the seafront and faces the vestiges of the Mulberry Harbour that still emerge from the sea or lie on the beach.

The Musée du Débarquement was the first museum purposely built to commemorate the landing of June 6, 1944 and the Battle of Normandy.

2- Memorial to Gal Alexander Stanier ‘Liberator of Arromanches’

You’ll find this memorial near the museum. It pays tribute to Sir Alexander Stanier, the Commander of the 231st Brigade that liberated Arromanches. It reads as follows:
‘Au General Sir Alexander Stanier Bt
231e Brigade – 50e Division
Liberateur d’Arromanches
Le 6 Juin 1944

3- The Mulberry Harbour

The Mulberry Harbour played a major role after D-Day.

The Allies chose Normandy’s long beaches for the D-day landings, however, decided to build artificial harbours to counteract the region’s lack of harbours.

Section of road (whale) from the Mulberry Harbour exhibited in Arromanches - Gold Beach War Memorials
Section of road (whale) from the Mulberry Harbour exhibited in Arromanches

They indeed needed to easily supply fresh troops, material and supplies to the advancing troops inland.

They erected two floating harbours, Mulberry A in front of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer – Omaha Beach and Mulberry B in front of Arromanches – Gold Beach.

They sailed over 70 old vessels from Oban in Scotland and sank them in front of the beaches to create breakwaters.

They then towed floating concrete blocks (Phoenix Caissons), which they built in the UK. They sank them too and protected them with anti aircrafts guns.

They placed Pilons and floats (Beetles) between the Phoenix Caissons and the beach to install sections of floating roads (Whales), pontoons and piers that moved up and down with the tides.

Breach in Arromanches with vestiges of the Mulberry Harbour in the sea - Gold Beach War Memorials
Breach at Arromanches with vestiges of the Mulberry Harbour in the sea

Unfortunately a severe storm damaged Mulberry A beyond repair. This artificial harbour was thus used for 10 days only and never served afterwards.

Mulberry B resisted better as it was certainly better anchored on the sea floor. Although damaged, it was repaired.

It was fully functional in early July, less than a month after the D-Day landings; however, the first shipments were delivered as soon as June 14th!

This artificial harbour planned to last 3 months, served for 5 months. It allowed the transport of 2,5 million men, 4 million tons of supplies, 500,000 vehicles and 9,000 tons of material!

The Mulberry Harbour became known as Port Winston to pay tribute to Winston Churchill who took a large part in its conception. Many vestiges of this artificial harbour still dot the sea or sit on the beach.

A section of road (whale) is on exhibition in the street that goes down to the beach, at the rear of the museum, in the street.

4- Notre-Dame-des-Flots

A 4,5m high statue of the Virgin Mary placed on a 8m granite base overlooks Arromanches and the sea from the top of the cliff.

Notre-Dame-des-Flots and the Royal Engineers Monument overlooking Gold Beach and Arromanches - Gold Beach War Memorials
Notre-Dame-des-Flots and the Royal Engineers Monument overlooking Gold Beach and Arromanches

It was erected in 1911 to commemorate the centenary of the naval battle that opposed the French and English navies on September 7, 1811.

Its location was not chosen at random though. The statue can indeed be seen from afar and shows the trawlers the entry to the nearby harbour of Port-en-Bessin.

However, it also looks after the memory of the missing at sea, fishermen caught in the storms but also the soldiers who died on Gold Beach.

Directions: Rue du Calvaire, on the cliff overlooking Arromanches

5- Memorial Royal Engineers

This memorial commemorates the Royal Engineers Brigade who contributed to the construction of the artificial harbour. Trained by the British Engineers, they assisted in the construction of the roadways that carried the men and equipment from the ships to the mainland.

Directions: Rue du Calvaire, by the statue on the cliff overlooking Arromanches

Gold Beach War Memorials in Ver-sur-mer

D-Day sculpture in British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-mer - Gold Beach War Memorials
D-Day sculpture in British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-mer

1- British Normandy Memorial

On 6 June 2019, date of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, Theresa May unveiled the D-Day sculpture by British sculptor David Williams-Ellis.

This sculpture representing 3 soldiers landing on Gold Beach is the ‘first stone’ of the British Normandy Memorial designed by the British architect Liam O’Connor.

The memorial park that will emerge from the ground within the next months/years, will include a cloister garden and a memorial court that will bear the names of over 22,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who lost their life on D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

D-Day veteran George Batts is at the origin of this memorial.

2- Musée America Gold Beach

Musee America in Ver-sur-mer - Gold Beach War Memorials
Musee America in Ver-sur-mer

The Musée America is located in the heart of Ver-sur-Mer. It was founded to commemorate two important events that marked the history of the little town.

The first was the crash of the America off the coast of Ver in 1927. Commander Robert Byrd piloted this first mail-carrying flight between the US and Europe.

The second is of course the landing of the men of the British 50th Infantry Division, assisted by the armour, at Ver-sur-Mer, on D-Day. Ver-sur-mer was inland from Jig and King, Gold Beach’s eastern landing sectors.

3- Hôtel America

This house, located opposite the Musée America, bears a memorial slab that reads as follows:

“Cet ancient Hôtel America a été la résidence des officiers d’état-major du 9eme ‘Beach Group” de la Marine Royale Britanique, du 6 Juin au 30 Juillet 1944.

'Hotel America' in Ver-sur-mer - Gold Beach War Memorials
‘Hotel America’ in Ver-sur-mer

Ces officiers, sous le commandement du Colonel J.R. Harper, le baptisèrent ‘Gold Inn’, L’Auberge d’Or, en référence au secteur “Gold”, comprenant les plages de Ver-sur-mer à Arromanches, dont ils contrôlaient le trafic maritime, y compris celui du port artificial ‘Mulberry”

This former Hotel America was the residence of the staff officers of the 9th “Beach Group” of the Royal British Navy, from June 6 to July 30, 1944.

These officers, under the command of Colonel JR Harper, baptized it ‘Gold Inn ‘, L’Auberge d’Or, in reference to the “Gold” sector, that included the beaches from Ver-sur-Mer to Arromanches, whose shipping traffic they controlled, including that of the artificial ‘Mulberry Harbour.

War Memorials in:

Juno Beach: Bernières-sur-mer, Corseulles-sur-mer, Graye-sur-mer, Douvres-la-Delivrande

Other Landing Beaches: Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach

Department of Calvados
Coordinates Arromanches: Lat 49.340368 – Long -0.620297

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