Commemorating Exercise Tiger and the mass evacuation
Monday 13 May 2013
In April 2013 John Casson organised a successful weekend of activities to commemorate the start of the year that marked the 70th anniversary of Exercise Tiger: the mass evacuation of the Slapton Sands area that occurred in 1943, and the practice landings in preparation for D-Day that followed this evacuation in April 1944.
On Friday 26 April 2013, in a marquee next to the tank memorial at Slapton Sands, around 250 students from local schools viewed displays, listened to a talk from local historian Jo Evans and watched archive footage of the mass evacuation and American armed forces practising in the area, which is near to John’s home. They also had the opportunity to speak to two Exercise Tiger veterans, who had travelled from America for the occasion. They found this fascinating, and the veterans clearly enjoyed it as well! Afterwards the students explored a fleet of 20 Second World War American military vehicles.
On Saturday 27 April around 1,200 people attended a public open day at the tank memorial at Slapton Sands to learn more about what went on in the area back in 1943–44. There were talks given throughout the day, including one by Reg Hannaford, who was a young boy when he was evacuated from Torcross to make way for the exclusion zone for the practice landings. Similar to the day before, there was also a fleet of Second World War American military vehicles and displays to help people get a feel of what went on in the area during those dark days of the war.
In the evening, over 100 VIP guests and dignitaries – including the United States of America’s acting ambassador to the United Kingdom, Barbara J. Stephenson – enjoyed a commemorative dinner at Dartmouth Golf and Country Club, with wartime music provided by Spiffing Tunes.
The following day, Sunday 28 April, a memorial service was held for nearly 1,000 young American servicemen who tragically lost their lives during Exercise Tiger and the practice landings. There was a parade of armed forces standard bearers, wreaths were laid around the tank and the Military Wives Choir gave an outstanding performance.
As well as the United States ambassador, the service was attended by the high sheriff of Devon, John Lee; the chairman of Devon County Council, Jerry Brook; the chair of South Hams District Council, Rosemary Rowe; and Major General Ewan Carmichael and Air Commodore Neville Parton, who represented General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff. In all around 750 people attended the service.
John said: ‘This was a fitting and very moving commemorative weekend honouring those brave young American servicemen who died and also local people who gave up their homes. The weekend ensured that the great sacrifice made by these men and local people will continue to be remembered.’
You can view more photos of this event in the Photo Gallery.