On this day in 1944, Allied forces carried out one of a series of large scale rehearsals for D-Day. Things did not go according to plan, however.

The operation took place in Slapton Sands, a beach in Devon that had been selected for US force "U" to practise landing on Utah beach, which it resembled with its gravel beach, followed by a strip of land and a lake.

The mock landings on the 28th of April were first marred by a friendly fire incident, in which sections of troops landing on the beaches fell victim to live naval fire.

Commanders had decided that the vessels supporting the false landings should fire live ammunition in order to acclimatise the soldiers to a real naval bombardment.

After this tragedy, a follow-up convoy of troops was then set upon by a striking force of nine German E-boats. Communication mix-ups meant that the convoy vessels were in a vulnerable formation and without their full escort.

638 Allied servicemen died from these attacks, and tragically hundreds more drowned after panicking and putting on their lifeboats incorrectly.

Because of the clandestine nature of operations in preparation for D-Day, very little was reported about the incident, which became known as the battle of Lyme Bay, and it has remained one of World War II's lesser known stories.

 Several officers with top (BIGOT) level clearance for the D-Day plans were missing in action, and the invasion was nearly cancelled until their bodies had been found as they could have revealed everything had they been captured.

In spite of the low profile of the incident, a civilian resident of Devon took it upon himself to create a proper memorial for the American soldiers who lost their lives.

When beachcombing in 1970, Ken Small found a submerged Sherman DD tank that had gone down with one of the sunken transports.

With the help of the villagers and local diving firms (and notably very little from either the US or UK authorities), he raised the tank in 1984 after purchasing the rights to it from the US government.

It now stands on a plinth with a plaque in memory of all the men killed. Ken's inspiring effort goes to show that a DIY approach to remembering war's tragedies is highly effective, particularly now that US officials have recognised and praised Small's efforts!




This is the tank that was raised. The original image can be seen here.