Then&Now,D-Day,Slapton Sands Sherman

Slapton Sands and Sherman Tank, South Devon, England, UK

In the build up to the D-Day Landings, training and more training was needed to ensure the operation was to be a success. What better than to find a beach that was a copy of one of the landing beaches itself. In 1943, Slapton Sands beach in South Devon had been identified by the planners as being a replica of Utah Beach, where the US Army 29th Infantry Division was to land. Only problem was, that there were many villages and farms occupied for generations by many Devonians. However, nothing stood in the planners way and so the villages of Blackawton, Chillington, East Allington, Sherford, Slapton, Stokeham, Strete and Torcross all based in the glorious South Hams district, were cleared of all people and their possessions.

 So a battle practice area was created. Many practice landings took place during early 1944, usually with live ammunition being fired across the beach as the landing craft came in. I think I read somewhere that more casualties happened on this practice beach than on the actual Utah Beach landings on D-Day, where luckily casualty figures were very low. 

Slapton Sands, July 2010

Slapton Sands, July 2010

Slapton Sands, July 2010

Slapton Sands, July 2010

Slapton Sands looking inland over Slapton Leys

Slapton Sands looking inland over Slapton Leys

Slapton Sands Memorial

Slapton Sands Memorial

Between April 22 and 30, 1944, Operation Tiger took place. This involved a number of practice landings in both day and night. On the night of April 27/28, 8 LST’s (Landing Ship Tanks) set out from Lyme Bay to turn into Start Bay and onto Slapton Sands. However disaster struck, when a flotilla of German E Boats attacked the convoy and caused havoc. 749 US sailors and soldiers were killed in the attack that night. Many books and articles have been written about the event, so we won’t go into further detail here. 

British scientists had remarkedly invented a swimming tank ! Based on a US Sherman Tank, it had two propellers on the back and a thick canvas screen that was raised around it. Launched out at sea, upto 2 miles from the beach, the DD or Duplex Drive Sherman would swim to the beach, drop it’s screen and then continue to shoot up German pillboxes.

During Tiger, one such DD Sherman was launched from a landing craft, but without it’s water proof engine plate in place. It began to sink, so the crewquickly baled out. The tank then sank in 65 feet of water and 3/4 of a mile from the beach. In 1983, Ken Small, a local hotellier from Torcross, discovered it with the help of local fishermen.

In 1984, forty years after it was lost, the tank was towed ashore and winched up the beach, When the tracks hit the slipway, the running gear turned as freely as it had done back in 1944. Ken could always be found parked next to the tank over the years and would tell visitors its history and all about Operation Tiger. The site continues to be of great importance locally, historically, educationally, and of course emotionally. It is now a tribute to the man himslef, who died in 2004, aged 74. 

One unusual thing to note though, is that the Slapton Sherman DD is based on an early M4A1 cast hull rather than most DD’s being based on the later welded hull types. 

Sherman DD Tank

Sherman DD Tank

 

Sherman DD Tank Rear View

Sherman DD Tank Rear View

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sherman DD Tank Propeller Driveshaft

Sherman DD Tank Propeller Driveshaft

 

 

 

Random Images From Collection
AEC 0853 Matador (Q 969 NYA)
AEC 0853 Matador (Q 969 NYA)
Crossley Q Type2 3Ton 4x4 GS (HAY 999)
Crossley Q Type2 3Ton 4x4 GS (HAY 9
Eastern Front Collection 577
Eastern Front Collection 577
Eastern Front Collection 16
Eastern Front Collection 16
Willys MB/Ford GPW Jeep (DNT 348)
Willys MB/Ford GPW Jeep (DNT 348)
Eastern Front Collection 349
Eastern Front Collection 349
Leyland Daf 8x8 Drops (84 KH 73)
Leyland Daf 8x8 Drops (84 KH 73)
Ford M151 MUTT (MRD 683 J)
Ford M151 MUTT (MRD 683 J)
Eastern Front Collection 670
Eastern Front Collection 670
Wartime in the Vale 2010, Dodge WC-56 Command Car (JPP 320)
Wartime in the Vale 2010, Dodge WC-
Land Rover S2 Ambulance (87 AA 74)
Land Rover S2 Ambulance (87 AA 74)
Eastern Front Collection 60
Eastern Front Collection 60
Normandy 1944 Collection 374
Normandy 1944 Collection 374
Eastern Front Collection 860
Eastern Front Collection 860
M3A1 Half Track (UYJ 903)
M3A1 Half Track (UYJ 903)
Normandy 1944 Collection 635
Normandy 1944 Collection 635
Lincolnshire Regiment (Embroid)
Lincolnshire Regiment (Embroid)
Saurer 2DM 4x4 Cargo (M 59112)
Saurer 2DM 4x4 Cargo (M 59112)
Normandy 1944 Collection 107
Normandy 1944 Collection 107
AEC 0853 Matador (VLD 594) 2
AEC 0853 Matador (VLD 594) 2