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North Devon WW2 & Natural History Tour

North Devon was home to many servicemen from the US armed forces in 1942-1944, as they trained for the Normandy D-Day landings.

Day 1: Bideford and Instow

Day 1 begins in the historic town of Bideford, which saw thousands of GIs pass through during the war, chiefly associated with Ordnance Service preparations for the D-Day invasion. Their stay is documented in the town’s museum and by the ‘friendship’ tree in adjoining Victoria Park.

The tour moves on to a nearby stately home, Tapeley Park and Gardens, which housed many child evacuees from Britain’s cities during the war. 
The day concludes with a visit to the nearby village of Instow, a village that overlooks the River Torridge and the estuary. During WW2, the Commodore Hotel was the headquarters for the US Navy, overseeing D-Day training. The white sand of the beach, many boats and picturesque views over to the fishing village of Appledore, make it an ideal stop.

Day 2: Saunton Beach and Braunton Burrows

Day 2 delves into the history of the Assault Training Centre, which existed on Braunton Burrows, between 1943 – 1944. During that time,10,000 US GIs were trained here, ahead of the Normandy D-Day landings, and billeted in the nearby village of Braunton.

As well as being rich in history, the Braunton Burrows sand dune system is a UNESCO biosphere, world renowned for its unique flora. Finish with tea at Saunton Sands, whose 4-mile-long sandy beach was used for amphibious landing training exercises.  

Day 3: Woolacombe and Ilfracombe

Day 3 continues to follow the trail of the GIs who lived and trained in North Devon during the war, with a visit to Woolacombe. The beach was the focus of amphibious landing and assault training thanks to its resemblance to Omaha Beach in northern France. 

The village has a memorial to the US troops that were stationed there, and the headquarters of the Assault Training Centre were located in the Woolacombe Bay Hotel and a granite memorial to US troops sits on the esplanade.

From here visit the picturesque town of Ilfracombe, still used as a fishing harbour. In WW2, Ilfracombe housed a garrison of American troops from the Pay Corps and was a refuge for up to 3000 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and Austria. In addition to its World War II history, the town has some fine examples of Victorian architecture, a throwback to its boom as a seaside resort in the Nineteenth century.

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