In the weeks before D-Day the parts of the Mulberry Harbours were collected together at Peel Bank off Woodside Beach and Barton Beach.

They were moored to heavy concrete blocks sunk on the sea bed.

At Peel Bank, over 1,000 troops were trained in the assembly of the various parts of the harbour.

The men were billeted at local temporary camps, and were transported to the harbour units in launches using the landing stage and sea wall at the end of Fishbourne Lane.

Isle of Wight County Press: The remains of a kite anchor, lost while training on the Mulberry HarboursThe remains of a kite anchor, lost while training on the Mulberry Harbours (Image: Sarah Burdett)

Very soon after D-Day the sections of the harbours were towed or transported across the Channel to form the Mulberry Harbours at the Normandy Beaches.

Today the Peel buoy marks the Peel Bank off Woodside.

A new type of anchor was designed for the soft sea bed off Normandy to secure all these harbour elements. This was the Kite Anchor.

Resembling a small plough, this anchor was designed to dig into the sea bed.

Isle of Wight County Press: The rusted reel of a D-Day mooring cableThe rusted reel of a D-Day mooring cable (Image: Sarah Burdett)

The Mulberry harbour roadways were flexible to withstand sea conditions. The floating supports had to be securely anchored to the sea bed.

The 6cwt Kite Anchors were found to be capable of resisting a pull of 30 tons. 1,240 Kite anchors were ordered in 1943 from ten firms, and were ready in March 1944. This number was eventually doubled.

Isle of Wight County Press: Reel of cable and kite anchor found on a beachReel of cable and kite anchor found on a beach (Image: Sarah Burdett)

Some artefacts were lost during training, including up to ten Kite anchors. Because these anchors were classed as disposable, any losses did not have to be reported.

The same went for some drums of wire moorings left behind on the beach.

The Kite anchor proved its value in Normandy during a great storm that struck the Mulberry harbours in late June 1944.

The British harbour Mulberry B, had correctly doubled up on the anchors, and it survived intact.

Unfortunately the American harbour had only used half the necessary number of anchors, so the weight of the harbour elements caused the anchors to drag, with disastrous results. Mulberry A had to be closed down.

By August 17, 1944, Peel Bank was cleared of the concrete moorings and the damaged units that had not been taken to France.

Recently some of the Kite anchors from Woodside were lifted and sent to the Mary Rose Trust for conservation. Some anchors and reels can still be seen on the beach.

The Island also had a role in prepping the Duplex Drive Tanks, and Osborne Bay was chosen as the most secluded and secret place to train the troops who would be using these special floating tanks on D-Day.

1,400 troops each received three weeks training on how to use the tanks. Driving them off the landing craft 1,200 yards from the shore was the most difficult part of the exercise.

These D.D. Tanks were sometimes called “Donald Duck” tanks, or “Hobart’s Funnies,” after Maj Gen Sir Percy Hobart, who was in charge of the unit.

The Sherman tanks were fitted with a collar that was held in place with inflatable tubes, so they could be driven like boats. They had propellers that ran on the same shaft as the drive tracks. The troops operating them could drive ashore, lowering their canvas fronts so that the guns could fire ahead.

Where the wave conditions were good, the tanks were very successful on D-Day, and casualties on the beaches were much lower.

General Montgomery reported favourably on the D.D. tanks at Gold, Sword and Juno beaches, but also reported that all had sunk when they tried to land at Omaha beach, because of the weather.