The Luftwaffe had been flying reconnaissance flights over London and the rest of Britain for 6 years before the war, and had marked targets – such as power stations, docks and gas works – in a set of aerial photos. London was divided into different target areas, and the easiest for bomber pilots to recognize from the air was the one enclosed by a distinctive Ushaped loop in the Thames: i.e. the Isle of Dogs. Covering a large part of the Island, and key targets, were the West India Docks and Millwall Docks. Bombing at the time was not accurate enough to avoid surrounding areas, but the Nazi chiefs told themselves that this was an acceptable inevitability and, besides, it would support their strategy of destroying trade, industry and communications if people’s ability to live and work normally were also disrupted. After all, how can the docks operate without dockers?
– ‘The Isle of Dogs During WWII’ by Mick Lemmerman.
The West India Docks are clearly taking a battering in this photo, but more than half the bombs have fallen on residential areas. In Millwall, explosions can be seen at the corner of Havannah Street and Commons Street (A), and especially in the area around Millwall Central School (B). South of Millwall Outer Dock is an explosion just west of St. Edmund’s Church (C). Further east, in Cubitt Town, there are explosions on Manchester Road opposite Manchester Grove (D), Saunders Ness Road near Island Gardens (E), London Yard (F), and Samuda Street (G).
Three days after D-Day (5th June 1944), the two Mulberry harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel. These were prefabricated, portable harbours developed for the Allied invasion of Normandy. Concrete ‘Phoenix’ units (or caissons) formed the harbour breakwaters. These were huge floatable and sinkable structures weighing up to 6000 tons. Almost a year earlier, in later 1943, the East India Import dock had been dammed, pumped out and 153 converted into a dry dock for the construction of 10 of such units. Other units were built in other parts of the country, and all units were then floated into West India Docks for making into two harbours: Mulberry A, the American harbour, for assembly off Omaha Beach at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer Mulberry B, the British harbour, for assembly off Gold Beach at Arromanches.
As much as 80 per cent of storage space at the West India Docks was lost in the war. During the war, an average of 30% of quay space was unusable at any one time.