The idea of the Mulberry harbours is said to have originated from no lesser than Sir Winston Churchill.
Piers for use on beaches - They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered. Let me have the best solution. Don't argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves.
Two harbours were designed and constructed in less than ten months. They were both the size of Dover and were vital in getting the supplies to the Normandy beachheads . One was for the Americans at Omaha beach and one for the British, here at Arromanches.
Over four hundred parts were built in Britain and then towed over on the afternoon of D-Day. They were made up of Gooseberries (sunken ships forming a basic breakwater), Phoenixes (huge hollow concrete boxes, placed in a semi circle and sunk to form a harbour wall) and Whales or Beetles (flexible roadways).
The remnants of the harbour you can now see at Arromanches are some of the 146 Phoenixes built. Incredible that they have lasted this long.
If you are here it is likely that you have an interest in the momentous events of June 1944. If so you should visit the Museum.
It was the first memorial/commerorative facility of its type to open - almost exactly 10 years to the day after D-Day - on June 5th 1954. Looked a bit tired on my first visit in 1985 but was given a complete updating in 2004.
On dry,sunny days as well as cold wet ones it is always busy. However it is laid out in such away that you can keep moving, and every half hour or so a couple of dozen or more people may go to see the film that is shown alternately in French and English in the comfortable little cinema...we discovered it was the same film we had already seen at the Rangers Museum in Grandcamp Maisy but watched it in French this time.
The exhibits, photographs, old documents and newspapers provide a very full background account to every aspect of Operation Overlord. Together with examples of actual military land vehicles and ships, models and displays, an informative and very moving impression of those dark days of the occupation are re-created.
The shop has a good collection of military books for the serious historian as well as lighter material for younger readers. There are also educational games, toys, and useful souvenirs.
I had heard of this cinema but assumed it was just a funky way of showing a film about the D-Day Landings and that we would almost certainly have seen the footage many times before. But on a dull Sunday afternoon in early October John thought it would make a good short visit.
I discovered how wrong my assumptions were....
I knew from pictures that the building was round and on the cliff top overlooking Arromanche. It appears to be set like a mound as though in a round bunker.
The film shown is The Price of Freedom made - according to the publicity - using 9 cameras mounted in different locations, also utilising archived, previously unseen film and scenes of the now peaceful towns and countryside over which the fierce battles were fought.
The film is viewed on 9 screens in the circular theatre - you stand and move around as you wish to watch.
The combination of constant action and sound, plus the juxtaposition of D-Day images with those of the present day creates an intense feeling that brings you closer to an understanding of the suffering, heroism and terror of war. It is difficult to put such an unforgettable experience into words.
I would be wary of taking very young children to a showing which lasts a long 20 minutes.
This is a very obvious thing to do but if you have arrived in Arromanches-le-Bains because of an interest in its history it is a small way in which you may begin to imagine, to feel for yourself something of the awe that the events that took place here evoke.
On my first visit, on a day not unlike that stormy day of June 6 1944, I was accompanied by a relative whose husband had, at the age of 19 then a midshipsman, RNVR, served as First lLeutenant on one of the landing craft that brought troops ashore.
It was really only then, two years after she had been widowed she realised the impact the experience had on him and understood the written contribution he had made to a collection of personal accounts of D-Day. Happily he was one of the survivors and wrote his account very soon after. *
But re-reading it now is a chilling experience. His widow admitted that it was only after that visit, that she took down the book and read it properly for the first time and then again and again.
* The book is The D Day Landings by Philip Warner originally published by William Kimber, London, now reissued and widely available in a "Daily Telegraph " edition under the general series heading "Pen and Sword Books"
In the First picture the lone Paraglider above the cliff seems to symbolise the thousands who were parachuted onto the beaches and into enemy territory .
In other pictures the remains of the Mulberry Harbours can be seen broken up after being tossed in the sea for 65 years but still far from disintegrating.
Assault time 07:25
The weather was really rough on the morning of 6th June 1944 when the British, 50th Northumbrian Division landed on the beach
8th Armoured Brigade DD Tanks
6th Battalion, The Green Howards
5th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
1st Battalion, Dorset Regiment
1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment.
Objective of the Day
The objective of the day was to capture Bayeux, establish a bridgehead across the N13 Bayeux to Caen road, to take the German gun battery at Longues and to establish contact with the flanking formations.
This cinema is situated on the top of the hill and shows a moving film called "The Price of Freedom". The film is projected onto 9 screens and you find yourself totally drawn into it.
It's well worth a visit.
The Arromanches 360 Circular Theater is open 7/7. A show at 10 past and 40 past each hour
This museum gives you a great overview of the D-Day landings. It tells you about the wonderful Mulberry Harbour that was transported piece by piece over the English Channel to France.
It includes a huge moving exhibit of the harbour and also a short film.
The city of Arromanches is very beautiful and it has got some beautiful houses. In front of the Hotel de Ville there is a plate that remembers Charles De Gaulle and his struggle for the France liberty during the WWII .
The nice little church of Arromanches is dedicated to St. Pierre, protecting of fishermen. It was built between 1857 and 1870 in the Neo-Romanic style replacing the church of 13th century, too small for a city of fishermen that became a sea resort. The stained glasses of the church remind the events of the landing of the II World War.
The museum of the disembark, situated in the center of the vilalge, explains very well the logistic and strategic position of Port Winston. Inside it you can see many heirlooms, weapons, letters and other left by the soldiers of both the factions. Outside there are some interesting vehicles.
Though the turbulent days of 1944 actually only are just a small timespan in history, the village of Arromaches is overwhelmed by what happened here. No wonder, as the imprtance of these events to the present day and future. Still, maybe also stand still to what the Arromanches people see every day between a tourist invasions and commerce that are busy taking it's share out of all this. The streets and houses, some inhabitants walking by and the small well maintained gardens. Above all it's that what the feedom eventually brought back. A peaceful free village, where people live their lives. In the evening, when the masses are gone ... you can experience this youself ... or are you also back to the hotel then?
On the boulevard of Arromanches, looking over the bay and the parts of the Mulberry port that still lay in the sea, stands the Musee du Debarquement (Museum of Disembarkment). It gives a thurrow view into the Mulberry port and under which circumstances it was built and operated. First the battle and after that autumn storms, endangered the place that became so important for the supply of the allied forces.
On top of the cliffs just South-east of Arromanches (also holding a spectacular view over the Bay) you might visit Arromanches 360. A thrilling panormaic surround film that gives the visitor an impression of the D-day landings here at Arromanches and throughout Normandy, followed by the slow commencement inland of the troops.
All over the village you can find commemoration stones, smaller or bigger monuments and placques telling stories that happened in a particular spot. Thus the events of June 1944 live on in the middle of the always busy streets, filled with tourist that sometimes in a rush pass by without noticing a story that shouldn't be forgotten. Even when in a hurry, to see as many spots along the D-day beaches of Normandy possible, take you time to see and read as much as possible. All together, they make up the complete story that were part of the Longest Day.
On the top of the hill of Arromanches there is a statue of the Lady to remember the victims of the Second War World.
Near it there is Arromanches 360° which is a cinema that shows onto nine screens the movie “The Price of Freedom”. It was made interweaving archive footing of the 1944 Landings with images of present-day Normandy.
The harbour consists of 146 large thick cases of cement transported from England and absorbed to form a semicircular dike to which some afloat bridges were anchored. In the three months after to the D-Day from this harbour disembarked 2.5 million of men, 4 tons of equipment and 400000 vehicles. To appreciate completely the harbour I suggest to see it from the top of the hill.