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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 April, 2004, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Tragic D-Day rehearsal remembered
Wreaths being laid beside the Sherman tank
A wreath-laying ceremony took place at a Sherman tank in Slapton
The 60th anniversary of a D-Day exercise which led to the deaths of more than 700 US servicemen has been remembered in a special service.

A total of 749 US military personnel were lost when German E boats launched a surprise attack on Allied ships crammed with soldiers.

The servicemen died as they took part in Exercise Tiger in the English Channel on 28 April, 1944.

Veterans gathered for the service in Stokenham, south Devon.

The memorial service was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony a few miles away at a US Sherman tank which was recovered in 1984 after being lost at sea during the operation.

Normandy landings
Almost 800 US soldiers lost their lives in the D-Day rehearsal
The disaster struck during the eight-day exercise, which used the beach in Slapton, south Devon, to practice for the D-Day landings.

About 30,000 men and 300 ships were involved in the mock operation.

The events on Sunday, which were organised by the Royal Tank Regiment Association, were attended by several ex-servicemen who took part in Exercise Tiger.

The US Defence Attaché in London, Captain David L Wirt, and members of the Royal British Legion were also at the ceremonies.

Sea Tiger fact file
A total of 749 US soldiers and sailors lost their lives after a surprise attack by German E-boats during the exercise six weeks before D-Day
Exercise Tiger, an eight-day operation to practice D-Day landings involved 30,000 men and 300 ships
Vessels taking part were attacked after being spotted by nine Cherbourg-based German E-boats which evaded guarding Allied patrols

The vessels taking part in Exercise Tiger were attacked by nine Cherbourg based German E-boats in the early hours of 28 April.

The enemy vessels evaded patrols guarding the Tiger ships which were hit by torpedoes

However details of the attack on the Tiger vessels were not released until after the Normandy invasion.

General Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied invasion forces, feared any leak could tip off the Germans and sap the morale of his troops.

To enable the D-day battle exercises to take place on the three-mile-long Slapton beach, 3,000 people were evacuated from homes in the area at the end of 1943.

A re-enactment of the exercise was held last week when original World War II guns fired blanks from the British and American camps set up in the field around nearby Fort Henry in preparation for the mock battle.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Scott Bingham
"As the number of veterans dwindles, it is vital the tank is preserved to ensure those who made the ultimate sacrifice are not forgotten"



SEE ALSO:
D-Day practice brought to life
17 Apr 04  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Home Front Recall
07 Apr 04  |  Breakfast
Service held for D-Day soldiers
04 Apr 04  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Veterans may need D-Day passes
03 Feb 04  |  England
Should Germans attend D-day events?
06 Jan 04  |  Have Your Say


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