Tragedy of Exercise Tiger remembered 70 years on

Monday 5 May 2014

On 28 April 2014 a memorial service to mark the 70th anniversary of Exercise Tiger took place in the tank car park in Torcross, Slapton Sands, Devon.

tragedy-of-exercise-tiger-remembered-70-years-on-1The congregation during the service for Exercise Tiger.

As with last year’s event, John Casson and his team organised a very successful and moving service, which saw young and old attend to remember those who gave so much for the freedom we enjoy today.

Local schools were once again invited to attend, and with the mission of Exercise Tiger Remembered being to educate the next generation, schools were asked to be more involved with the service this year.

tragedy-of-exercise-tiger-remembered-70-years-on-2Edward Sobczyk, Exercise Tiger veteran with Isabelle Gates, student from Kingsbridge Community Primary School.

Each of the seven schools invited were asked to take part in a poetry competition, with the theme being Exercise Tiger. Deciding on a winner was not easy, but the judging panel – made up of former police officers, school teachers and local museum staff – chose Isabelle Gates from Kingsbridge Community Primary School with her poem Going Down.

The guest of honour at the service was Edward Sobczyk, a previously unknown veteran of Exercise Tiger.

After the attack on Exercise Tiger, Edward spent several hours saving over 100 lives before being saved himself (just in time). For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star, the second-highest bravery award in the United States Army, which was later taken away from him when General Eisenhower chose to keep the Exercise Tiger tragedy a closely guarded secret.

Joining the congregation for the memorial service was Captain Stracener, the United States Navy’s Chief Naval Attaché from their embassy in London; the deputy lieutenant and high sheriff of Devon; other local dignitaries; evacuees; and the Torbay Brass Band, who led the hymns and national anthems beautifully on what turned out to be a glorious sunny day.

During the service, which was attended by around 500 guests, there was a parade of armed forces standard bearers, which was led by the colour party (flag bearers) from Britannia Royal Naval College. Wreaths were also laid around the tank by the local armed forces associations, alongside handmade wreaths that had been produced by the local schools.

tragedy-of-exercise-tiger-remembered-70-years-on-3Edward Sobczyk standing with local and military dignitaries during the service.

John, who is the chairman of Exercise Tiger Remembered, said: ‘This was a fitting and very moving service honouring those brave young American servicemen who died and also local people who gave up their homes. This service goes to ensure that the great sacrifice made by these men and local people will continue to be remembered by the next generation. We must engage with the students, and I feel they have gained much from attending.’

You can view more photos of this event in the Photo Gallery.