My home county of Devon in south-west England played its part during WW2. The counties two cities, Plymouth and Exeter were both heavily bombed during the ‘Baedeker Blitz’ and throughout the war. Plymouth is a major naval port, while Exeter is the county’s capital.
To protect from these raids several RAF fighter bases were established, which have since disappeared, although Dunkeswell is still operational as a civilian airfield. Lying just east of Exeter, this airfield was home to the only American Navy air base commissioned on UK soil during World War II, and now houses the Dunkeswell Memorial Museum.
During the build-up for the D-Day landings, Devon was used for training, and ultimately was a point of embarkation for both the sea and airborne assaults.
The sand dunes of Woolacombe, on the north coast, were fortified with mock German defences and Dartmoor was used, as it is today as a training area.
A large area of the South Hams, lying just west of Dartmouth was evacuated and used as a live fire area due to its similarity to Normandy. It was here that the ill-fated Exercise Tiger disaster took place in April 1944, described in Ken Small`s book, the Forgotten Dead. A Sherman DD tank now lies as a memorial at Slapton to those who lost their lives during this exercise.
In the final weeks before D-Day, US troops turned huge areas of Devon into camps, with many of these embarking onto Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) via the ramps at Brixham and Torquay, from where they set sail to UTAH BEACH in Normandy.
On the night of 5th June 1944 Airborne forces from the 101st Airborne Division took off from airfields around Devon ( Uppottery and Exeter) as part of Operation Neptune, the airborne part of the D-Day landings.
What to see
Devon is a prime destination for tourists due to its mild climate, rolling moorland and gorgeous beaches. There are many tourist attractions in the county, which is well served with inter-county travel links.
Dunkeswell lies about 20 minutes from the M5 motorway as you enter the county.
Torbay is a popular tourist location, and home to Brixham Battery, with LCT loading ramps at Torquay and Brixham harbours.
You can now take a trip on a WW2 Fairmile B motor launch from Torquay, Dartmouth or Brixham to the Exercise Tiger battle training area in the South Hams.