Disaster Before D-Day...
...Unravelling the Tragedy at Slapton Sands, from Pen & Sword
Title: Disaster Before D-Day
Author: Stephen Wynn
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Like many others, I was aware of the tragic events of April 27/28 1944 in the waters off Slapton Sands in Devon. Yet I learnt a lot about the story and of the context surrounding it all. It was an exercise in readiness for the Normandy invasion that was to follow in June 1944, but ended in tragedy when German E-boats managed to evade wider Allied patrols and were able to attack a small convoy of LSTs carrying US troops to a practice landing on Slapton Sands.
What we also discover are the details of the evacuation of a number of villages in the area, including Slapton, and the effort put into clearing the area in preparation for the exercises. Great care was taken to assist the local population both in moving out and later, when they were able to return to their homes, repairing damage and clearing any remaining explosives. Naturally there is a detailed examination of Operation Tiger itself and what happened with the E-boat attacks. Added to this the author outlines a number of other pre-invasion exercises which took place, what units were involved and where they were undertaken. The depth of planning that is demonstrated in all these exercises is evident, and all must have contributed to the success of Operation Overlord.
In the closing sections of the book is a list of those who lost their lives in the events off Slapton Sands, though even after all these years it is difficult to come up with a definitive list. Secrecy surrounded the disaster at the time, a factor which is discussed in the book. It would not have been good to publicly admit the level of losses inflicted in a simple exercise and equally you would not have wanted to tell the enemy what was going on and providing useful intelligence that could have compromised the actual invasion when it took place. It does make for interesting reading and provides something of a memorial for those who lost their lives in this sad story.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for my copy.