I found an interesting photograph the other day in my parents’ house. I had been rummaging through an old blanket chest and found the accompanying picture. The picture was taken in 1974 and shows my father and mother, Mr and Mrs Tom Hall, looking down on Bassett-Lowke’s model of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches in France.
My father had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and his ship’s task on D-Day in 1944 was to tow several sections of The Mulberry Harbour across the Channel. The Mulberry Harbour was two artificial harbours which were designed and constructed in Britain and then taken across to France and assembled to facilitate the unloading of supply ships off the coast of Normandy immediately following the invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944.
Before the D-Day invasions Bassett-Lowke had been commissioned to make models of the enemy defences, allied landing ships and craft, as well as models of the Mulberry Harbour itself, all built to a scale of 1148th actual size. These models enabled the Allies to make their preparations for the D-Day invasion and they are said to have had the most up-to-date fleet of model landing ships and craft in the world.
In 1974, on the 30th anniversary of D-Day, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo ran a competition in which they invited readers who had been at D-Day to recount their experiences. My father was one of the winners and his prize was a trip to the 30th anniversary celebrations in Normandy. A photographer from the Chronicle and Echo accompanied them, hence the photograph.
The model my parents are looking at in the photograph is not the original one built during the war but a further model built by Bassett-Lowke Ltd. in 1950 for the Arromanches Museum in France at a cost of £8,000.*
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Bassett-Lowke had the honour of receiving thanks from two Prime Ministers for work done in the two world wars. Mr Winston Churchill also sent to W J Bassett-Lowke, as a gift, a box of his well-known cigars.*
*ref. -‘Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke’ by Janet Bassett-Lowke
First published in June 2005 In The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 35.
Author: Barbara Floyer
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer