Slapton and the D-Day Landings

    Evacuation of the Slapton Area

    By the autumn of 1943 it was decided that Slapton beach would become a major practice area for the D-Day landings. Using live ammunition and recreating the defences likely to be put up by the Germans on any beach to be attacked. The intention was to simulate real battle conditions for troops without any experience.
    Since the barrage of artillery from ships was bound to cause extensive damage to the whole area under attack, the entire population of the area from Torcross to Blackpool Sands, and inland for about ten miles was to be evacuated.

    The chairman of Devon County Council was ordered to requisition an area of 30,000 acres. This included the villages of Torcross, Strete, Frogmore and Sherford. It included 180 farms and many small hamlets. It affected 750 families and totalled 3,000 men, woman, and children.
    The authorities received news direct from the cabinet that they would have to move about 3,000 people from their homes, shops and farms at short notice for an indefinite period. The Lord Lieutenant of Devon meet with the people on 12th November 1943 to inform the local residents that by the 1st January 1944 they had to be ready for the services to move into the area to begin the task, that would lead to D-Day.
    The villagers had to be out by December 20th, five days before Christmas. The residents thought it would only be for a period of 4 to 6 weeks, not expecting to be away from their homes for at least twelve months.
    Notices were posted to inform of publice meetings to be held at East Allington Church, Stokenham Church, Blackawton Church and Slapton Village Hall.
    Notices were sent to every house in the area and information centres were set up at Stokenham, for the parishs of Stokenham, Slapton, Sherford, and Buckland Tout Saints and at Blackawton, for the parishs of Blackawton, East Allington. Westleigh, Halwell, Stoke Fleming and Strete. They were opened daily from 9-30 to 6-oopm.
    The first American ships arrived in the River Dart one dark evening in December. The Americans were to take over the Brittannia Royal Naval College, which was to become the headquarters of the US Navy.  

    Operation Tiger April 26th – 29th 1944

    Operation Tiger was a rehearsal for D-Day, that for many reasons developed into a tragic disaster of such proportions. Exercise Tiger was hushed up for years afterwards and many who took part in it were at the time unaware of the disaster which had occurred at the time.
    The exercise was to be similar to exercise`s that had taken place earlier that year. Landing ships and craft left Plymoouth, Dartmouth and Brixham, fully loaded with men, vehicles and live ammuntion and after simulating the crossing to France reached Slapton beach on the evening of the 27th April.
      
    Little did they know that the German listening posts stationed along the Atlantic Wall in France could pick up the American communication about Operation Tiger and they knew what the Americans were going to do.
    On the 28 April 1944, landing craft set off from the coast of England carrying soldiers and their equipment, along with a convoy of ships. The Royal Navy provided escorts with HMS Scimitar in the lead and HMS Azalea in the rear.
    Suddenly HMS Scimitar in the front was rammed by another vessel and had received orders to stay in port but the Commander of the operation was not told of this fact so the convoy started off with no escort in the front and HMS Azalea in the rear had been told to stay behind. It is thought that a typing error was to blame for this miscommunication and the convoy had no Navy escorts at all.

    It is thought  that when the convoy approached Start Bay, near Lyme Bay, they were fired open by German E Boats and 749 soldiers were killed. The 9 E Boats had been dispatched from Cherbourg and sunk Landing Craft 507, 531 and badly damaged 289. General Eisenhower ordered all the bodies to be recovered as 10 personnel on board had maps of Utah Beach in their possession of the D-Day landings plan, and many think the mission was kept quiet so as not to affect the June 6th landings.

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