Service in Devon remembers D-Day rehearsal tragedy

Memorial for D-Day Exercise Tiger
The vessels were heading from Lyme Bay to Slapton Sands when they were attacked during Exercise Tiger [BBC]

A service has taken place to commemorate the 80th anniversary of a D-Day exercise tragedy.

In 1944, 639 American soldiers and sailors died when their vessels were attacked by German E-boats during a rehearsal for the Normandy landings.

The service took place at the Torcross Tank memorial in Slapton Sands earlier.

It was attended by local dignitaries, military personnel and the American families of those who were killed and injured during Exercise Tiger.

Laurie Bolton at the Torcross Tank memorial
Laurie Bolton said the site gave her family "a tangible place to come to pay tribute" to her uncle [BBC]

The vessels were heading from Lyme Bay to Slapton Sands when they were attacked.

Laurie Bolton has been visiting the site for 30 years after finding out her uncle, Sgt Louis Archer Bolton, died at sea during the exercise.

She said it gave her family "a tangible place to come to pay tribute".

"We have no grave to visit, so it's very important to us," she added.

Writing on the
The cairn was unveiled in Dartmouth, near Slapton Sands, on 5 April [BBC]

The area was chosen for the exercise due to its topography resembling Utah beach - where D-Day was to take place, the Diocese of Exeter said.

The Reverend Mark Neave, Priest-in-Charge of the Start Bay Mission Community, said the commemoration was a "poignant prelude".

"With the passing of the years, this may be the last time that our American friends are able to visit Torcross to mark the loss of their countrymen," he said.

"But having an American tank at the site is an enduring reminder of the special relationship between our two countries, that continues despite the many changes that have happened over the past 80 years."

'Embedded in history'

Ahead of the exercise, thousands of residents of the South Hams villages and farms near Slapton were forced to evacuate from 1943 onwards to enable the D-Day preparations to take place.

Mr Neave said: "Had the exercise not gone so horribly wrong, then it is unlikely that Exercise Tiger would be remembered as a military operation in its own right.

"But the impact of the exercise on the local community, with over 3,000 residents having to lock up and leave their homes, farms, schools and churches, with only a few weeks' notice, not knowing when they might be able to return, has become embedded in local history."

A memorial honouring the servicemen was also unveiled near Slapton Sands in April.

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