Visitors to Saunton Sands this weekend could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped back in time 75 years.

Scenes from Saunton Sands D-Day event. Picture: Nigel Worth Photography.Scenes from Saunton Sands D-Day event. Picture: Nigel Worth Photography.

The huge Devon D-Day 75th anniversary event on Saturday and Sunday promises an action-packed spectacle as 140 World War Two vehicles and hundreds of costumed living history enthusiasts descend on the beach.

As well as the chance to see everything from jeeps and lorries to tanks in action, there will be a Spitfire fly past and pitched battles between American GIs and German Panzer troops.

The event is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the US Assault Training Center, which was based around Braunton Burrows and the surrounding beaches.

It is all free, although normal parking charges apply – but Saunton Beach Enterprises which runs the beach has advised visitors to use buses or car share where possible, plus extra parking is being made available at Saunton Golf Club.

The Park and ride will be run from 9am-10pm on Saturday and 9am-6pm on Sunday.

Various living history groups in authentic period costume and equipment will be on hand to chat to visitors and introduce them to military life of the 1940s.

The groups attending include the ‘Americans’ of First Wave 44, the 2nd Devons Battalion, 29th Infantry Division and the 304 Panzer Grenadiers – yes, there will be German-inspired characters in attendance too.

There will also be a beer tent, beach cinema, bar and a Saunton WW2 history trail with interactive characters by Tempus-Fugitive.

Devon D-Day preview Saunton Sands. Picture: Tony GussinDevon D-Day preview Saunton Sands. Picture: Tony Gussin

It is the fourth year running the D-Day event has been hosted at Saunton and each year seems to get bigger and better, with vehicles and re-enactors from around the UK taking part.

The Assault Training Center was created in 1943 and saw the dunes and beaches around Braunton Burrows used to simulate what would happen when troops attacked the French beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

There is still the remains of a concrete landing craft on the burrows and each year a memorial is held there in honour of those who gave their lives, with the event scheduled for Saturday this year.

Soldiers practice a beach assault before the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944Soldiers practice a beach assault before the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944

14,000 US troops moved through North Devon for training in the run up to D-Day on June 6, 194414,000 US troops moved through North Devon for training in the run up to D-Day on June 6, 1944