Memorial sought for troops killed in WWII Slapton Sands exercise
August 7, 2003
A British man hopes to raise money to erect a wall of names on the beach at Slapton Sands where several hundred Americans died in the run-up to the D-Day invasion of World War II.
Ian Davidson wants to honor the 749 men killed during Exercise Tiger, a training effort that was ambushed by German patrol boats early on the morning of April 28, 1944.
“I feel very passionate about this,” he said during a telephone interview from his home in Devon, not far from where the disaster took place.
He said he needs to raise about $400,000 to construct the wall and wants to do so before next April, the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France.
Exercise Tiger was part of a larger training effort for D-Day. On the night of April 27, several landing ships were filled with troops and equipment. They were to make a landing on the beaches of Slapton Sands in Devon, which were chosen for their close resemblance to the beaches of Normandy.
But after midnight, German patrol boats surprised the ships and opened fire, sinking or damaging several of them. Instead of landing at Slapton Sands as planned, many bodies washed ashore. Many of the dead are now buried at Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley, England.
The event was hushed up at the time so the Germans could not draw a link between the exercise and the real thing.
It was later publicized, but a legend has grown that the entire event was kept under wraps for decades.
“Many people don’t realize what happened at Exercise Tiger,” said Davidson, who served in the Royal Army in the 1950s.
Some historians claim that lessons learned at Slapton Sands helped save lives a few weeks later at Normandy, especially at Utah Beach, where the landing was less bloody than it was down the shore at Omaha Beach.
Davidson has visited several survivors in the States to publicize his effort.
“I’m just trying to bring it to their attention of what happened at Exercise Tiger,” he said.
“I would like to see us have a wall of names in Devon of the guys who were massacred on the shores of Great Britain.”
Davidson has developed a Web site — www.friendsofthelaurel.co.uk — to help with the fund raising.