Woolacombe to host D-Day anniversary spectacular
09:56 21 August 2013
Live re-enactments, displays and memorials at major 70th anniversary event on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1 to commemorate the US troops who trained in North Devon before the invasion of Europe.
THE 70th anniversary of US troops training for D-Day in North Devon will be commemorated at a major re-enactment event in Woolacombe.
On Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1, 250 living history enthusiasts in World War Two attire plus some 40 military vehicles will set up camp on the Esplanade.
On the Saturday there will be a beach assault complete with Sherman tank and pyrotechnic effects, while on Sunday a wreath-laying will take place at 11am, a fly past by a Spitfire and possibly other aircraft.
Static displays, tours, an exhibition, film shows, morning parades, refreshment and charity stalls will all be happening.
Organisers and contributors include Friends of the Assault Training Center, Braunton and Mortehoe museums, Woolacombe and Mortehoe Parish Council, Cobbaton Combat Museum and numerous re-enactment groups.
In the run up to the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, 10,000 American troops trained on the beaches and estuaries of North Devon at what was known as the US Army Assault Training Centre, which opened on September 1, 1943.
Many of the training aids, such as concrete landing craft, can still be seen around Braunton Burrows to this day.
Among the displays at the anniversary will be a replica landing craft built by Nigel and Neil Worth at Barum Engineering in Barnstaple, thanks to grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department of Education.
The brothers organised the event with author Richard Bass, who has written several books on the subject, including Spirits of the Sand, published in 1992 to coincide with the dedication of a memorial at Woolacombe.
“North Devon is the only place the Americans trained for D-Day,” he said.
“I realised it was 70 years this year and local people wanted some sort of commemoration, so we applied to the Heritage Lottery and the project just grew and grew. I approached some of the living history groups and they were so enthusiastic the thing just built itself.”
One man who has kept local D-Day artefacts alive is Norman Dunn, 92, who served on the anti aircraft guns during the war. After, he was involved with conservation on the burrows and fought to preserve the training centre remains, convincing military authorities to do the same.
A plaque was placed on the old concrete landing craft, and every D-Day Braunton Royal British Legion lays a wreath there: “That was what I wanted, for people to remember,” said Norman.
Find out more about the anniversary event at www.assaulttrainingcenter.com.