D-Day Embarkation Hard ‘NS Stone Point’

Back Stone Point, Essex

In preparation for the anticipated landing on the shores of mainland Europe, which became reality with the “Overlord” operation in June 1944, a program to construct a chain of embarkation hards was set in motion in the summer of 1942. During the following 12 months, 68 of these concrete aprons and their attendant facilities were built around Southern Britain, each capable of berthing between one and five landing craft. One of these was laid down at The Stone, on the June 1999: River Blackwater, as the base for four Landing Craft, Troops or LCT’s and this still survives.

In preparation for the anticipated landing on the shores of mainland Europe, which became reality with the “Overlord” operation in June 1944, a program to construct a chain of embarkation hards was set in motion in the summer of 1942.

During the following 12 months, 68 of these concrete aprons and their attendant facilities were built around Southern Britain, each capable of berthing between one and five landing craft. One of these was laid down at The Stone, on the June 1999: River Blackwater, as the base for four Landing Craft, Troops or LCT’s and this still survives. Now the berthing area for Stone Sailing club, the hard is situated between the seawall and the river’s edge and covers an area up to 90 yards (82 m) wide. 

The relatively flat landward part of the area has been laid down as solid concrete while the seaward sloping run-up area has been formed from individual slabs cast into small squares, presumably to provide traction. No “dolphins”, the steel-framed mooring points, have survived. Behind the seawall, in the garden of a bungalow called “Espero”, is a curved-roof hut made of corrugated-asbestos sheeting. Approximately 42 feet (13 m) ong, this can be seen on 1960 aerial photographs and will have been one of probably several such buildings erected to accommodate the hardmaster and embarkation staff officers, and to act as the central control room, workshops, etc. 

A report on Naval Control at Southend and The Thames, written in July 1945, includes a chapter on Burnham-on-Crouch. Regarding the hards at Stansgate Abbey and Stone Point it states:

'Training Grounds
The preliminary boat work was carried out in the River Crouch, where the mud helped to prevent serious damage to hulls and propellers. Later, the classes moved to the River Blackwater, distance 5 miles (8 km) by road and 20 miles (32 km) by sea, where two major landing craft hards, at Stansgate and at Stone were brought into use as practice training areas for advanced training.

These hards with the close proximity of Osea Island, gave first class training in the actual embarkation of heavy vehicles, guns and tanks, followed by a landing on Osea Island, guided and controlled by Royal Naval Beach Commandos; with attacks on pill boxes erected by the military on Osea Island earlier on, but not now tenanted, followed by an evacuation and return to the hards.

These exercises which were organised for every week gave the advanced classes of the pupils a general insight as to how a landing was organised, and what they might expect to find on reaching the enemy shore – realism was given by blank cartridges and thunder-flashes.’ 

View of hard

View of hard

Detail of  hard

Detail of hard

Hut near Hard

Hut near Hard

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