WW2 Devon

My home county of Devon in south-west England played its part during WW2. The counties two cities, Plymouth and Exeter were both heavily bombed during the ‘Baedeker Blitz’ and throughout the war. Plymouth is a major naval port, while Exeter is the county’s capital.

[This page is a bit dated now and will be updated soon. May 2019]

To protect from these raids several RAF fighter bases were established, which have since disappeared, although Dunkeswell is still operational as a civilian airfield. Lying just east of Exeter, this airfield was home to the only American Navy air base commissioned on UK soil during World War II.

During the build-up for the D-Day landings, Devon was used for training, and ultimately was a point of embarkation for both the sea and airborne assaults. For example, The sand dunes of Woolacombe, on the north coast, were fortified with mock German defenses and Dartmoor was used, as it is today as a training area.

A large area of the South Hams, lying just west of Dartmouth was evacuated and used as a live fire area due to its similarity to Normandy. It was here that the ill-fated Exercise Tiger disaster took place in April 1944, described in Ken Small`s book, the Forgotten Dead. A Sherman DD tank now lies as a memorial at Slapton to those who lost their lives during this exercise. The popular (private) beach, Blackpool Sands all but marked the northern most point of the UK Battle Training Area, and was used as a landing beach for fuel and stores.

In the final weeks before D-Day, US troops turned huge areas of Devon into camps, with many of these embarking onto Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) via the ramps at Brixham and Torquay, from where they set sail to UTAH BEACH in Normandy.

On the night of 5th June 1944 Airborne forces from the 101st Airborne Division took off from airfields around Devon ( Uppottery and Exeter) as part of Operation Neptune, the airborne part of the D-Day landings.