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Francis Marshall – Cartoon Map of the D-Day Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches – 1944-45

  • Author: Francis Marshall (artist)
  • Date: 1944-45
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 73.5 x 62.5 cms. Map: 64.5 x 42 cms


British artist Francis Marshall’s wonderful comic depiction of the D-Day Mulberrry Harbour at Arromanches, 1944-45

About this piece:

Francis Marshall (artist)


Untitled Cartoon Map of the D-Day Mulberry Harbour “B” at Arromanches

Sheet: 73.5 x 62.5 cms. Map: 64.5 x 42 cms, with illustrated letterpress key to plan below map. Original wash colours. Wide margins. One ot two light stains to paper, which is very slightly yellowed and toned, but evenly across the whole sheet & attractively so. Signed with initials “F.M” in lower right corner of map image. With all a very fine example.

Exceptionally rare.

A wonderfully imaginative and humorous cartoon map depicting the Mulberry “B” floating harbour that proved such a vital part in the supply and replenishment of British and American forces in the immediate aftermath to the D-Day landings in June 1944.

A miracle of wartime engineering, comprising numerous huge floating concrete caissons, pontoons, piers, bridge-sections and breakwaters, the Harbour was tested and constructed in secret in ports around the British coastlines during 1943-44 before the different elements were towed by barge & brought together on the South coast in May 1944 and then floated across the English Channel in the immediate aftermath of the D-Day landings. The different sections were then rapidly assembled off the Normandy coast to form a remarkable artificial harbour on “Gold” Beach, close to the French port of Arromanches.

A second Mulberry habour, codenamed Mulberry “A”, was also brought over in sections and assembled in the American zone, on “Omaha” Beach on the eastern part of Cherbourg peninsula and in the westermost sector of the Overlord Operation. Though it was completed ahead of time within two weeks of the June 6th landings, Mulberry “A” was almost totally destroyed by severe storms – the worst in over 40 years – which ravaged the Normandy coast for three days from June 19th 1944. It was so badly damaged as to render it unuseable.

Though also damaged, fortunately the Mulberry “B” Harbour at Arromanches survived the storms in much better shape and, after speedy repairs, was soon operational again and remained so through the ensuing months. It provided a vital part of the Allied supply line infrastructure – a safe & secure concentration hub for Allied troops, fuel and materiel on the Normandy coast – as British and American forces broke out from the D-Day beach-head and began their progressive advance through Northern France, Belgium & Holland during the summer and autumn months of 1944.

The Mulberry “B” Harbour’s importance in the successful prosecution and completion of the Allied military campaign in North Western Europe in 1944-45 cannot be overestimated. It was used for 10 months after D-Day, bringing ashore over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies before finally being decommissioned in the late spring of 1945. Even today, nearly 80 years later, giant vestiges of the original concrete harbour can still be seen littered along the foreshore and in the shallow coastal waters below the cliffs at Arromanches, a testament to its formidable engineering & remarkable durability.

The wonderfully creative imagination of artist Francis Marshall is evidenced in the entertaining array of animals, fruit & vegetable, symbols & characters that populate this rare cartoon map.

The first structural elements of the Harbour were towed across the Channel on June 9th (D-Day+3) and by June 18th, some 115 of the outer Phoenix caissons had been sunk in a five mile arc in the coastal waters directly opposite the town of Arromanches.

The different details & components relating to the Harbour are outlined in an explanatory Key below the Plan.

The key-marked symbols include:

Phoenix: A Concrete Breakwater in sections

Leviathan: The Ship which filled the Phoenix Units with sand to give them extra weight

Corncobs: Old Merchant Vessels sunk as a Breakwater

Gooseberry: Code name of the Breakwater formed by Corncobs

Spud Piers: The Landing Wharf on which Material was unloaded

Whale: The Bridge connecting Spud Piers to the Shore

Beetles: The Pontoons on which the Whales were supported

Headquarters: Naval Officer in Charge

Mulberry “B”: The Full Code Name of the Artificial Harbour

Golden Arrow: Arrow, the Code name for the Port of Arromanches, Gold, the Code name of the Beach Sector

Liberty Trot: Trot of Buoys for Liberty Ships

Liberty Ships: Anchorage

Rhinos: The powerdriven Pontoons on which cargo was brought ashore

Ducks: The D.U.K.Ws Amphibious Vehicles

Duck Cushions: Assembly Points for Ducks

Planter: The Code name for Officer in charge of Sinking arrangements for Phoenix and Corncobs

Western: Entrance to Harbour

Northern: Entrance to Harbour

Eastern: Entrance to Harbour

Some of the figures & symbols are wonderfully imaginative: Mythical red Phoenixes ring the outer perimeter. Beyond them a procession of swimming Rhinos. Inside them a line of vibrant yellow Corncobs. Four huge Sperm Whales lie beached on the shoreline, at each of their tails the landing wharves on which men and material were unloaded, these so-called Spud Piers, amusingly depicted as sacks of potatoes topped by coronets (peers). Beneath the four Whales can be seen the so-called Beetles, the pontoons on which the Whales were supported. “It’s hard on us Beetles down here” quips one of their assembled number. A procession of Ducks (DUKWs) swim ashore beside the Whales, some nestling comfortably on the large blue cushions (Duck cushions) positioned on the foreshore.  The Planter – the officer in charge of sinking the Spud Piers and Corncobs – appears, Uncle Sam-like, in the guise of a Southern Plantation owner. The offshore anchorage of Liberty Ships takes the form of a cluster of French Liberty caps, whilst the Liberty Trot shows children dancing through the shallows inside the ring of Phoenixes holding aloft these same Liberty caps. The harbour entrances are denoted by a Cowboy on horseback (Western), an Eskimo in a kayak (Northern) and a Chinese junk (Eastern). Another eskimo in the upper right corner, holds up a compass in his right hand denoting North and the other cardinal points. The central motif of the key below the Map image depicts the branch of a Mulberry tree laden with ripe fruit attracting a buzzing bee (Mulberry “B”), the leaves of the branch dissected by a Golden arrow, symbolically denoting the Port of Arromanches (Arrow) and adjacent “Gold” Beach.

Artist Francis Marshall [1901-1980] was a fashion illustrator, author and artist, probably best known for his long-standing work for Vogue magazine from the late 1920s through the 1970s. After an early career as a cadet in the Merchant Navy during World War One, he later trained at the Slade School of Art, before finding work in advertising & illustration. He joined the magazine Vogue in 1928. He was seconded to the Admiralty’s Camouflage Department in Bath in August 1941, one of a small specialist team of camouflage officers, which included several civilians artists. Much of his war seems to have been spent supervising the design and installation of camouflage measures in ports, harbours & naval installations across the British Isles, as he recounts vivivdly in a December 1942 article for Art & Industry magazine. Amongst his colleagues were Leslie Atkinson [1911-2004], a well-known artist and post-war book illustrator, who reputedly did the hand colouring on these Mulberry harbour maps, and World War One veteran, team boss & chief camoufleur, Graham Barry Clilverd [1883-1959]. Interestingly Cliverd produced a wonderful series of wartime cartoons depicting many of his Admiralty colleagues and fellow artists in Bath which were offered for sale recently by an American book dealer. Based at Kingswood School, which had been requisitioned soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, it was here that the Admiralty’s experts – leading civil engineers & scientists – conceived the initial designs and exhaustively modelled & tested the individual components & structures of the Mulberry Harbour.

Sadly it seems to be an apocryphal story that the secret code name “Mulberry” was derived from the ancient mulberry tree that still stands in the courtyard outside the Headmaster’s study at Kingswood, which became the office of the Admiralty’s Civil Engineer in Chief during this wartime period.

Having already survived the London Blitz in 1940-41, when his home in Primrose Hill was badly damaged in May 1941, Marshall also witnessed the infamous Bath Blitz a year later, in April 1942. It was one of the infamous “Baedeker” raids undertaken by the German Luftwaffe against several of Britain’s historic cities. Both he and Leslie Atkinson and well-known war artists such as Clifford Ellis & John Piper recorded the devastating aftermath of the raids in numerous watercolours and sketches of the bombed-out streets and buildings of this beautiful Georgian City. Indeed Marshall, along with his wife and 82 year old landlady, was incredibly fortunate to survive the raids, after their home, one of a fine terrace of Georgian houses overlooking the city in the Beechen Cliff area, received a direct hit. Fortunately they had taken shelter under the stairs and were eventually pulled out from the rubble without serious injury. Marshall subsequently depicted this scene of devastation in several on-the-spot sketches.

The Mulberry Harbour map was probably designed & composed by Marshall some time after the events of D-Day, perhaps even as late as early 1945. Local Bath newspaper reports from July 1945 record an example of the map being offered for sale at a local auction in the Pump Rooms raising money for the City’s Comfort Fund for the Forces. The report suggests it was acquired by the City authorities on the instructions of the Mayor, who clearly recognised its significance and wanted to preserve it and put on public display in the City Art Gallery. Its current whereabouts are unknown. Another example, signed by Marshall himself and dated 15th January 1946, was discovered in the empty school premises in May 1946 by Kingswood’s Headmaster, Mr A B Sackett, after the buildings & campus had finally been vacated by the Admiralty and returned to the School authorities. It remains proudly preserved in the School archives to this day. Indeed a facsimile of this map was presented by the School to the Museum in Arromanches during a visit on the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1994. Winston Churchill himself is said to have been so amused & entertained by the map that he instructed a copy to be prominently displayed at the Admiralty in London. Our researches to date have uncovered only a very small handful of surviving examples of this map, preserved by family & descendants of individuals who either worked for the Admiralty at Kingswood or had close connections with the secret Mulberry Harbour project and its final construction in Normandy in June 1944.

Francis Marshall went on to enjoy a glittering post-war career as a popular author, society artist and celebrated fashion illustrator. From the early 1960s his artistic career received a significant boost when he became chosen illustrator for the book covers of romantic novelist, Barbara Cartland [1901-2000]. This provided him with an almost limitless  supply of work bearing in mind Cartland’s prolific output. During her long & immensely popular writing career she penned well over 700 romances!

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London held a superb Exhibition of Marshall’s work in 2018, which was accompanied by an excellent illustrated catalogue, edited & authored by Oriolle Cullen. It provides the most detailed and comprehensive record of the life and talents of probably one of Britain’s finest fashion artists of the 20th Century.

This Mulberry Harbour cartoon map celebrates Francis Marshall’s wonderfully creative imagination & unique talents as an artist as well as commemorating what is surely one of the most remarkable feats of engineering and construction of World War II.


Refs: Oriolle Cullen Francis Marshall – Drawing Fashion [V & A Publishing, 2018]