Imperial War Museum Duxford receives rare piece of D-Day history

PUBLISHED: 11:15 11 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:15 11 April 2016

IWM Duxford celebrated the donation of the Whale, a floating roadway section from Mulberry Harbour B, which was crucial to the success of the Allies in breaking out from the beaches of Normandy following D-Day.  Les Amis du Pont Bailey with Mrs Ida Beckett and the Beckett family.

IWM Duxford celebrated the donation of the Whale, a floating roadway section from Mulberry Harbour B, which was crucial to the success of the Allies in breaking out from the beaches of Normandy following D-Day. Les Amis du Pont Bailey with Mrs Ida Beckett and the Beckett family.

Darren Harbar Photography

Imperial War Museum Duxford celebrated the donation of the Whale - a “remarkable” piece of wartime history - at the weekend.

Ida Beckett next to the Whale.Ida Beckett next to the Whale.

The Whale is the only object of its type in the UK and a direct connection with a pivotal moment in world history.

A floating roadway section from Mulberry Harbour B, it was crucial to the success of the allies in breaking out from the beaches of Normandy following D-Day.

The Whale was donated by Les Amis du Pont Bailey and made possible with support from the family of Major Allan Beckett, the wartime designer of the Whale.

Members of Les Amis du Pont Bailey, who saved the Whale from dereliction in Normandy and arranged for it to be transported to the UK and conserved for display at IWM Duxford, attended the day.

Simon de Lautour (left) and Mrs Ida Beckett (left) unveil the plaque for the Whale, with Mike Beckett in the background.Simon de Lautour (left) and Mrs Ida Beckett (left) unveil the plaque for the Whale, with Mike Beckett in the background.

Christopher Long, of Les Amis du Pont Bailey, said: “I feel proud of England and of Imperial War Museums in particular.

“It has taken me eight years to save this bridge and in the end the museum pretty much did my job for me.”

Ida Beckett, whose husband, Major Allan Beckett, designed the Whale during the Second World War, was also in attendance.

She said: “I feel very proud of my husband’s achievements.

“He was such a modest man. I think he’d think it was a lot of fuss about nothing!

“I think it’s wonderful - it is a reminder to us all of such an engineering feat. It was quite remarkable.”

James Taylor, assistant director of narrative and content, Imperial War Museums, said: “Whales were floating roadways that were integral to the Mulberry harbours built immediately after the allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

“Our Whale span comes from the British Mulberry at Arromanches.

“An extraordinary feat of engineering in themselves, the Whales helped ensure that soldiers, vehicles and supplies could be brought ashore to take part in the campaign to liberate continental Europe from Nazi domination and to bring to an end a regime that had brought death and suffering to millions.”

Visitors to IWM Duxford will be able to see the Whale next to the Land Warfare exhibition. Land Warfare is home to the Normandy Experience and the Monty exhibition.

Together they tell the story of the final months of the war in Europe, from D-Day, through the fierce battles in France to VE Day.

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