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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 April, 2004, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
D-Day practice brought to life
Normandy landings
The original dress-rehearsal saw six men killed
A dress-rehearsal for the D-Day landings was re-enacted on a Dorset beach at the weekend.

The event marked the 60th anniversary of Operation Smash, during which Studland Bay hosted a practice of the planned landings in Normandy, France.

More than 100 local history enthusiasts teamed up with the National Trust to storm the beaches and parade as troops.

Six soldiers drowned during the original exercise after their modified amphibious tanks sank in bad weather.

We are all about the ordinary soldier
David Bennett, chairman of the World War II Living History Association
As a result of the tragedy, British tanks were launched closer to the French shore on D-Day and suffered far less from the weather, resulting in few being lost.

The original exercise was watched by King George VI, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower and General Montgomery.

It involved rocket attacks and an assault landing with thousands of infantry on 4 April, 1944.

During Saturday's re-run, 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.

'Living history'

Soldiers in original standard issue uniform gathered by their camouflaged tents as original military vehicles including cars, jeeps and motorbikes, drove around the camps.

David Bennett, chairman of the World War II Living History Association, said: "We are what we say we are. We are living history.

"People can see life-size, one-to-one, what they have only seen in movies or old newsreel footage."

Geoff Hann, head warden at Studland, said: "The 60th anniversary marks an important period in the history of Studland but due to the age of most veterans involved in 1944 this is likely to be one of the last opportunities to remember this historic event in this way."



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