About Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island
Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island were used as sites for the construction of components of the ‘Mulberry Harbours’ – the artificial harbours created by the Allies to enable them to land their forces in Normandy on D-Day.
History of Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island
As part of the planning for Operation Overlord (codename for the Battle of Normandy) and due to the lack of big port facilities in Normandy, it was decided that artificial harbours were needed in order to quickly offload the heavy and bulky crucial cargo needed to support a successful invasion.
These artificial harbours, codenamed Mulberry, were built in Britain before being towed across the Channel with the Allied invasion force on D-Day, and then assembled by the army once in the waters surrounding France.
A key part of the Mulberry Harbours was the outer breakwater, created by sinking old ships and concrete Phoenix caissons in lines. The large concrete Phoenix structures had hollow chambers inside, and thus could be floated in order to move them, but when water was let into the internal chambers they would sink onto the sea bottom. Once built, the Phoenixes were sunk nearby until they were needed. These were constructed on the coast of Hayling Island, on the stretch of beach at the harbour entrance.
Once assembled, the floating harbours formed an area approximately of the same size as Dover. Whilst the harbour at Omaha Beach had to be abandoned, the Mulberry Harbour at Gold Beach, nicknamed Port Winston, created the calm waters used to land 4 million tonnes of supplies, 2.5 million soldiers and half a million vehicles.
Langstone Harbour was also used as Starfish decoy site to misdirect German bombers during the war, as well as being a base for many landing craft and barges before D-Day. Hayling Island was the location of a mock invasion during Exercise Fabius in May 1944, rehearsing the preparations for D-Day, a week after Exercise Tiger.
Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island today
Most of the shoreline of Langstone Harbour is open to the public, including the section of beach on Hayling Island where the Mulberry Harbour components were built.
It is still possible to see one of the Phoenixes that was built – as it was faulty and couldn’t be used, it remains on a sandbank in the harbour. A Mulberry Harbour caisson can also be seen about 6 miles east of Langstone Harbour, south of Chichester.
Getting to Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island
Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island are north-east of the Isle of Wight, situated between Portsmouth to the west (approximately 10 miles away via the A3 and A27 and A3023 by car) and Chichester to the east (approximately 15 miles away, via the A27 and A3023). The nearest rail station is Portsmouth.