A special service of commemoration has taken place to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Exercise Tiger tragedy off Slapton Sands.

The service was at the Torcross Tank Memorial this afternoon.  

The memorial is dedicated to 639 American soldiers and sailors who died when their vessels were attacked by German E-boats during a rehearsal for the Normandy landings as they were sailing from Lyme Bay to Slapton Sands.  

The Sherman tank itself celebrates a special anniversary this year, having been recovered from the sea off Slapton Sands in May 1984, thanks to the efforts of local man, Ken Small.

Slapton had been chosen for Exercise Tiger because its topography resembled Utah beach in Normandy where D-Day was to take place.   

The wreaths on the recovered tank
The wreaths on the recovered tank (Richard Harding)

The service was lead by the Rev’d Mark Neave, Priest-in-Charge of the Start Bay Mission Community, with contributions from members of the Royal Tank Regiment Association.

Laurie Bolton whose uncle was killed in the tragedy gave a moving address and representatives of the US Army and Navy also addressed the crowd.

It was attended not only by local dignitaries and military personnel, but also by representatives from the USA, from the families of those who were killed and injured during Exercise Tiger.

Laurie Bolton whose uncle was killed
Laurie Bolton whose uncle died in the tragedy (Richard Harding)

Rev’d Neave said “This commemoration is a poignant prelude to the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that will be celebrated later this year.  

“With the passing of the years, this may be the last time that our American friends are able to visit Torcross to mark the loss of their countrymen.  

“Having an American tank at the site is an enduring reminder of the special relationship between our two countries, that continues despite the many changes that have happened over the past eighty years.”