Exercise Tiger: Bootprints mark D-Day disaster 75th anniversary

Slaptpn Sands memorial

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Bootprints have been laid in the sand in honour of the 749 servicemen who died on 28 April 1944

Hundreds of US servicemen who died in a World War Two disaster while rehearsing the D-Day landings are being remembered in an art installation.

Bootprints of 749 troops have been laid out on Slapton Sands, Devon, to mark the 75th anniversary of Exercise Tiger.

The men died when convoys training for the Normandy Landings were attacked by German E-Boats off the Devon coast.

Artist Martin Barraud hopes the artwork will help raise money for employment projects for veterans.

Mr Barraud also designed last year’s There But Not There campaign, which placed silhouettes of “Tommy” troops across the UK, to mark the centenary of the end of World War One.

“Our Tommy campaign captured the hearts of the nation, whilst giving a substantial boost to the mental health and wellbeing of veterans,” he said.

“We’re hoping the public will get behind our D-Day 75 campaign by purchasing their own bootprints to mark the great sacrifice of our WW2 heroes, in particular those who helped kick-start the liberation of Europe with the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.”

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Slapton Sands was used by US forces rehearsing for the D-Day landing at Utah Beach because of its similar geography

On 28 April 1944, eight tank landing ships, full of US servicemen and military equipment, converged in Lyme Bay heading for Slapton Sands for the rehearsal.

But a group of E-boats from the Kriegsmarine were alerted to heavy radio traffic and intercepted the slow-moving convoy.

A series of tragic misfortunes, including communication problems which led to deaths from live Allied fire, compounded the toll.

The Exercise Tiger incident was only nominally reported afterwards because of the strict secrecy of the D-Day landings.

Pam Wills, 85, from Devon, was just 10 when Exercise Tiger took place near her home, and her family was evacuated before the exercise began.

She said: “The US soldiers came over and talked to us, they gave us sweets and comics, but they then suddenly disappeared.

“We didn’t know Exercise Tiger had taken place, but my father, who was in the Royal Observer Corps watching for enemy aircraft, saw ambulances going to and from Slapton Sands, so we knew something was wrong.”

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A Sherman tank raised from the seabed in 1984 has served a permanent memorial to the dead ever since

Commemorative bootprints and special plaques made by veterans to represent each of the 22,763 British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who were killed on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944 will go on sale.

Mr Barraud said: “Our enduring hope is that every one of the US, British and Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen who gave their lives will have a bootprint purchased in their memory.”

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