While I was on holiday in Devon a few weeks ago I had the chance to visit the Exercise Tiger Memorial at Slapton Sands. I've been here before, way back in the mid 80's, but this time I wanted to return and pay my respects at the Memorial now that I have a little more understanding of why it is here and what it signifies.
On the 27th April 1944 thousands of allied soldiers began boarding eight Landing Ships for an amphibious assault on a heavily defended beach. This was a carefully choreographed rehearsal of the Normandy landings that would take place just a couple of months later and was designed to give 'green' troops some valuable invasion experience and thereby save lives. Unfortunately this trial run turned deadly when a group of German E Boats stumbled upon the convoy and began launching torpedoes against the lightly armed LCT's. Three Landing Craft were hit, two of which sank within minutes. Both were full of soldiers in full combat gear wearing life preservers they had had precious little instruction in using. 749 Soldiers and sailors lost their lives and the survivors were ordered never to tell the story for fear that Allied invasion plans would leak out.
In the 1970's a local man, Ken Small found artefacts washed up on local beaches and this set him on a path to uncovering the story of Exercise Tiger and the huge loss of life that went with it. He eventually got permission to raise a Sherman DD tank from the seabed and in 1984 the tank was dragged ashore and turned into a permanent memorial to the men that lost their lives preparing for D-Day and the liberation of Europe.
|This Sherman DD Tank was recovered from the sea and set up a memorial to Exercise Tiger|
|The dedication of the memorial|
|Despite over 50 years on the seabed the tank is in pretty good shape|
|Part of the specialised DD drive on this tank|
|Me and the Sherman in 2015|
|...and back in the mid 80's.|