Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge after sand beneath which they were buried is washed away

  • A large area of the D-Day hards on Stokes Bay in Gosport, Hampshire, has been uncovered following storms 
  • The concrete D-Day loading platforms were built in 1942 for use by Landing Craft Tank ahead of the invasion
  • Known to locals as ‘chocolate blocks’, the flexible concrete matting is rarely uncovered by storms and tides

By Milly Vincent For Mailonline

Published: 17:23, 10 January 2021 | Updated: 18:11, 10 January 2021

A large swathe of the D-Day hards have been uncovered after stormy weather and scouring tides revealed the infrastructure that is usually buried beneath the sand at the Hampshire Beach.

The concrete D-day loading platforms, built in 1942 for use by Landing Craft Tank ahead of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy, appeared in clear view on Saturday afternoon at low tide at Stokes Bay in Gosport. 

Known to locals as the ‘chocolate blocks’ the flexible concrete matting, built in four stretches along Stokes Bay, is sometimes stripped of its sand covering at low tide depending on the weather, however such an open stretch is rarely seen.   

The four purpose built hards, measuring 200 feet wide by 73 feet each, were built on top of the beaches to ensure sturdy slipway access for tanks and other support vehicles as they loaded up onto Landing Craft in preparation for the embarkation to the Normandy beaches as part of the Allied invasion force of Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.

Known to locals as the ‘chocolate blocks’ the flexible concrete matting, built in four stretches along Stokes Bay in Gosport, Hampshire, is rarely stripped of its sand covering

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

The concrete D-day loading platforms were built in 1942 for use by Landing Craft Tank ahead of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy

Local Alexandra Geary tweeted on Saturday: ‘Lovely to see the chocolate blocks at low tide on our walk today. They were to reinforce the beach at Stokes Bay to take the weight of the tanks departing on D-Day. #DDay #gosport #dailywalk.’ 

She added: ‘Don’t think I have seen so many exposed in some time.’ 

Another Twitter user responded: ‘You’re right I think, born and bred in Gosport, and I don’t remember it ever being so (my father would, he saw the troops off in 1944 as an eleven year old).’ 

The hards were built under the orders of Lord Louis Mountbatten and were designed to stop crafts and vehicles from shifting or sinking into the sandy beach as they prepared for Winston Churchill’s Operation Overlord. 

Each of the four hards in Stokes Bay were capable of berthing four Landing Craft Tank vessels – 194ft (53m), 300-ton – side by side, which each carried military supplies, tanks and DUKW amphibious vehicles. 

Around 61 other hards were built on beaches across the UK before the Normandy landings, with locations including the nearby port town of Lymington on the Solent in Hampshire, four in Southampton, 12 in Wales and eight in Scotland.  

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

The four purpose built hards, measuring 200 feet wide by 73 feet each, were built on top of the beaches to ensure sturdy slipway access for tanks and other vehicles to load onto the Landing Craft

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

A person is seen strolling along Stokes Bay where the ‘chocolate blocks’ which tanks once relied on to mount the landing crafts for Normandy have been uncovered

On D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in world history, over 160,000 troops landed in Normandy with some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships involved.  

The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The assault was chaotic with boats arriving at the wrong point and others getting into difficulties in the water.

It is thought as many as 4,400 were killed in the allied invasion, which Winston Churchill described as ‘undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place’.

Following the war the hards at Stoke Bay were taken on by Gosport Borough Council, who turned two of the hards’ approach roads into car parks – however at low tide and periods of rough weather the history beneath the Bay can still be seen.

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

US soldiers in full battle-dress boarding a Landing Craft Vehicle-Personnel, ready for the Invasion on 6th June 1944

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

View of American troops as they board a Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel in, Weymouth, England, early June, 1944

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

Troops and equipment en route, in preparation for Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy

The elite bands of brothers who were the first troops into Normandy on D-Day

Operation Overlord saw some 156,000 Allied troops landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

It is thought as many as 4,400 were killed in an operation Winston Churchill described as ‘undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place’.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6.30am.

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing.

Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. 

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing.

Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved.

The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The assault was chaotic with boats arriving at the wrong point and others getting into difficulties in the water.

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

Destruction in the northern French town of Carentan after the invasion in June 1944

Troops managed only to gain a small foothold on the beach – but they built on their initial breakthrough in the coming days and a harbour was opened at Omaha.

They met strong resistance from the German forces who were stationed at strongpoints along the coastline.

Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed, inlcuding 6,603 American, of which 2,499 were fatal.

Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed – and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces’ favour.

Stormy weather uncovers D-Day history on Hampshire beach: Loading platforms known as hards emerge

The first wave of troops from the US Army takes cover under the fire of Nazi guns in 1944

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