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Commemorating the 75th D Day Anniversary in North Devon

10th January 2019

Categories: Visitor News

North Devon Commemorates D Day

Photo Credit: Kim Stone

North Devon’s associations with the Second World War are typically considered in terms of evacuees and refugees. What is often forgotten - and so surprises people - is that it in fact harboured one of the most unique and important training camps for American soldiers.

In 1943, Braunton’s Assault Training Centre was opened quickly and urgently. A gross oversight by the higher-up members of the American war effort meant that a mistake of epic proportions was suddenly realised: thousands of troops had been sent abroad with the intent to lead the D Day landings.

The problem? The officers in question had had no training in their task, which would be an attack upon a very heavily defended beach fortification.

The Assault Training Centre

Photo Credit: Kim Stone

It was clear that something had to be done, and fast. So on September 1st, 1943, the Assault Training Centre opened its doors.

Stretched across 10 miles of coastline and covering Saunton Sands, Woolacombe and Braunton Burrows, the Assault Centre swallowed up beaches, cliffs, sand dunes and the sea. The interesting terrain of the area provided the perfect environment for the American troops to prepare for the forthcoming battle, which would take place on the Normandy coastline.

Time was of the essence, with the training encapsulating a new, amphibious style of assault, along with concordant tactics and principles, well suited to the varying environments provided by the Devon countryside.

We all know how the rest of the story goes, with incredible loss and sacrifice making way for a breakthrough in the war which would revolutionise its direction, and subsequently its ending.

North Devon Commemoration

For the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings, several historical events will be taking place across North Devon with the intention to remember and respect the troops, as well as commemorating the history of the area.

From April until October, a temporary exhibition will be held at the Braunton Museum, with further exhibits gradually opening in other local museums such as Appledore, Mortehoe, Combe Martin and more. Braunton will also hold a community tea party. Meanwhile, we will see a touring exhibition made up of Brian Chugg’s paintings of the Aftermath of War.

There will be educational outreach across the area to facilitate learning sessions in local primary schools, as well as inclusion in Barnstaple’s theatre festival. A consortium of local organisations has been awarded funding from Arts Council England to support educational and cultural activity to commemorate North Devon’s important role in the preparations for D Day.

The 75th Anniversary of D Day

Photo Credit: Lorna Weston

In Saunton Dunes, an area rife with the history of the D Day training camps, a living history event will be running over the 15th and 16th of June. The event is free and open to the public, and will include events such as:

  • Insights into the training and camp routines of soldiers, as well as the German soldiers

  • An experience of life on the frontline

  • A showcase of real World War infantry weapons

  • Two major battle displays

As well as hands-on and interactive educational displays. This event, like many of the others throughout the area will be family friendly, with plenty of parking.

After all of this has commenced, there will be transport going to Normandy for those who wish to get involved with the commemorations out there.

Are you looking to attend any of these events? Let us know what you might be interested in, share your thoughts on North Devon’s historical background or join in the general chat over on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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