Exercise Tiger

In the run-up to the D-Day landings Slapton Sands and a large part of the South Hams was evacuated and used as a live firing exercise area.

Image of the Sherman tank at Torcross, used as a memorial to Exercise Tiger

Image of the Sherman tank at Torcross, used as a memorial to Exercise Tiger

The Sherman Tank Memorial at Torcross

Image of the LCT ramps at Brixham, circa 1944

LSTs loading at Brixham

Wooden bunks are moved into a Devonshire house in preparation for the arrival of US troops

Photo courtesy of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum. Image D 21992. This image cannot be copied from this site without prior permission from the IWM.

Image of US troops on a landing craft


The weather in the South Hams

Slapton Sands and the South Hams area of Devon have changed little in looks since 1944

The beach at Slapton had been used as a training area for amphibious landings before the war, and was once more to be used - this time by US troops.

This was partly because of its close proximity to the ports of embarkation at Torbay, and partly because the areas closely resembled Normandy. Farmers and villagers had to sell most of their possessions, and some families never returned to the area.

As part of a full-scale rehearsal for the Normandy landings, on the night of April 28th, 1944, eight Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) and their lone escort, the British corvette HMS AZALEA, were en route to Slapton Sands.

Out of the darkness came a flotilla of nine German E-Boats, which attacked the convoy sinking two LCTs and crippling a third. Of the 4000 men involved in the exercise, nearly a quarter were dead or missing.

The German attack did not stop the exercise, and there were further casualties caused by 'friendly fire' on the beach. Allied planners were worried about the effect on moral that this would have on the troops just immediately before the D-Day landings, so the tragedy was covered up, with the survivors being split up and sworn to secrecy.

The casualty figures were then ‘conveniently’ hidden amongst those from the actual D-Day landings, only weeks later. This tragedy became one of WW2’s best kept secrets until it was revealed to the world almost over 40 years later.


US Army Memorial to the people of Slapton & the South Hams

In 1954 the US Army donated a memorial to the people of the South Hams area who gave up their homes and livelihoods during the evacuation of the region.

These Devonshire people made a immeasurable contribution to the war effort, and this historian doubts that the same sacrifice would be made so willingly today, but this memorial was to the living....and not to those brave US troops who gave their lives to ensure the success of the D-Day landings.

One should ask oneself if the same self-sacrifice would be made today by the people living in this area.

The memorial to the people of the South Hams at Slapton Sands

The memorial to the people of the South Hams, at Slapton Sands was dedicated in June 1954


A tribute to Ken Small

The story of Operation Tiger cannot be told without mentioning Mr Ken Small, who passed away in 2004.

Retiring to the area, Mr Small heard from local fishermen about how the area was used for training, and how they kept snagging their nets on ‘something big’ under-water in the bay.

Once the nets were cut away by local divers, it was discovered that it was a Sherman DD amphibious tank.

The tank was brought ashore again in 1984 and now lies as a memorial to Operation Tiger. To many people like myself who had the privilage of meeting him, the Sherman is also a memorial to Mr Ken Small's tireless work in bringing this tragedy to light.

I can highly reccommend reading his very moving book - THE FORGOTTEN DEAD.

A full account of the battle can be read in this book, or at the Operation Tiger Association website.