Monday, September 2, 2013
North Devon marks the 70th anniversary of American GIs training in the region during the build up to D-Day.
WOOLACOMBE Beach became a battlefield at the weekend as the village commemorated the 70th anniversary of American GIs training for D-Day in North Devon.
The Esplanade became a car park for World War Two military vehicles and a wartime living history exhibition, while on Saturday afternoon mock beach assaults took place down on the sand in among the surfers and sun seekers.
It was carried out by platoons of ‘GIs’ in the form of re-enactment groups including 1st Infantry Division, GI 44-45, 29th Infantry Division and First Wave ‘44.
On Sunday there was a wreath laying ceremony at the memorial on Woolacombe Esplanade, a fly past by a WWII Hurricane fighter plane and then a convoy made its way to the old wartime training grounds at Braunton Burrows.
On September 1, 1943, the Americans set up an ‘Assault Training Center’ in North Devon that saw some 10,000 troops train in the estuary and on the local beaches in the run up to D-Day on June 6, 1944.
Organisers included author Richard Bass, Nigel and Neil Worth plus Friends of the Assault Training Center, Braunton and Mortehoe museums, Woolacombe and Mortehoe Parish Council, Cobbaton Combat Museum and numerous re-enactment groups.
“Overall - everyone, local people, visitors, living history groups and vehicle owners had a memorable, educational and enjoyable weekend. Everyone asked me when I’d be doing it again,” said Richard.
“There was even a round of applause at the conclusion of the wreath laying ceremony, which was moving, colourful and emotional.
“Vehicle drivers on the tour of the training grounds were so proud to be driving over the very ground the Americans had used 70 years ago.”
* CLICK on the gallery link to the top right of this story to see more pictures from the event.