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Memorial to D-Day engineering hero Allan Beckett unveiled in Arromanches

A memorial to D-Day engineering hero Allan Beckett has been unveiled by the mayor of Arromanches-les-Bains Patrick Jardin to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Wreaths in memory of Allan Beckett were laid on the monument by the Arromanches Community, by the Royal Engineers and by Aecom Europe chief executive Ken Dalton. Dalton was representing the British Engineers who designed the Mulberry Harbour.

Jardin described Beckett as one of few “individuals whose role has proved to be distinguished in the history of humanity”.

Jardin decribed how Winston Churchill understood at an early stage that the storming of French harbours from Brest to Dunkirk was impossible whilst the enemy defences were so powerful, and how the idea of an artificial harbour came to mind - a harbour which required considerable technical innovations.

“Many looked for solutions; only one man found them. Major Allan Harry Beckett,” said Jardin.

“His system of telescopic floating spans, accompanied by appropriate means of anchoring them and the famous ‘“Kite’” anchor, allowed the Arromanches harbour to be installed successfully. This invention made possible the disembarkation of logistic support equipment during the summer of 1944, thanks to which, Allied armed troops were able to be moved in convoys, with impressive efficiency. In fact, Allan Beckett’s involvement played a key role in achieving the ultimate victory.

“This is the reason the Arromanches Commune dedicates today, a site to the memory of this great engineer, in the presence of his family and numerous personalities.

“I had the fortune of meeting him on the 6 June 2000 and I will not forget his feeling of emotion at being in Arromanches. He wanted to be there and he had traveled from England to do so. Here, he was still ‘at home’. Arromanches is proud to welcome all his family today.

“We measure the modesty of our homage: if a Multinational Pantheon had existed, Allan Beckett would deserve a place therein. Major Allan Harry Beckett… Arromanches honours you and says to you: Bravo et Merci.”

Aecom sponsored the ‘Order of Service‘ for the 65th and final formal British Normandy Veterans Association Parade in Arromanches on Saturday, with Dalton laying a wreath at the new memorial to Allan Beckett, designer of the landing bridges and anchors.

Aecom’s former operating company, Faber Maunsell, was formed by the merger of two UK companies, Oscar Faber and Maunsell, both of which were involved in the design and supervision of ‘The Mulberry Harbour’ and are named on the ‘Monument to the Royal Engineers’ in Arromanches.

The monument overlooks the site of the British landings and, about a mile off-shore is a jagged line of huge concrete caissons, which formed Mulberry ‘B’, the code name given to the harbour that was constructed in sections in the UK and then towed several hundred miles to France in June 1944.

The statistics are astonishing; each section was 200ft long by 60ft high x 60ft wide and of cellular reinforced concrete construction - reportedly costing much more than the price of the Channel Tunnel, when cash and labour is taken into account. On D-Day itself, 6th June 1944, the first section left the UK, to follow the initial assault. Within two weeks, some 130 such units had been towed to Arromanches and sunk into position, end to end in a curved line, to form a breakwater and deepwater unloading berth. This created a massive sea wall five miles in length which provided calm water for the unloading of the huge numbers of men, equipment, stores, ammunition, etc needed for what was the largest assault force ever assembled.

At the 50th Anniversary, one of the veterans, a Royal Navy Diver described his task: ‘My job was to check the sea bed prior to the valves being opened in the bottom of the caissons to flood and sink them. This was a tricky operation and to speed up the sinking process once the unit was in the correct position, we used to blow holes in the bottom with dynamite.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • As an engineer I must say this story humbles me. History shows the concept worked. At the time what they proposed was unproven. The sheer guts they must have had to drive the project through is almost beyond belief. To all concerned in the project may I add 'Well done and thank you'

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