Wednesday, 17 July 2013

WWII Operation Tiger Heritage Tour to Slapton Sands

The Fairmile was a Royal Navy WWII boat and is now owned by the family run Greenway Ferry Company which runs wonderful boat trips all over Torbay. Here is the Fairmile coming alongside Dartmouth Pontoon.

She looks absolutely beautiful on the water

Greenway Ferries has just refurbished the Fairmile Type B Rescue Motor Launch 497, putting her back (as much as possible) into her original wartime colours and layout, and have spent over £160,000 on making sure she stays with us as the last remaining of her kind.

On Monday we went to Dartmouth to catch the Fairmile for a 2 hour heritage tour over to Slapton Sands. It's a beautiful and poignant trip which is taken in memory of the soldiers killed in Operation Tiger during World War II. April 1944. A terrible tragedy. It's not a fun boat trip like the others. Greenway Ferries decided to run this trip to remember those who died and the story of Operation Tiger.

Slapton Sands was chosen as the practice beach for the American landing ships because it was similar to the beach in Normandy. Nine German E-Boats ambushed and attacked this practice run for the D Day landings, killing hundreds of soldiers (over 700 just from the American Landing Ships).

To make matters worse live ammunition was used to simulate battle conditions and due to confusion on all sides many more hundreds of soldiers were killed by friendly fire.

Officially the number of casualties is lower, but most local people believe it to have been over 2,000.

A Sherman Tank at Torcross is a memorial to the 749 US soldiers who died. Ken Small a local business man campaigned for a long time to have this memorial in place. It wasn't until 1984 that Ken Small succeeded.

We didn't land, so I don't have any other pictures to show you, although there's plenty on the web if you want to read more and take a look at the tank.

A stone pillar along the beach is a memorial from the US Army to all the locals who were evacuated in preparation for the practice.
Brixham played it's part as three of the American Landing Ships loaded and departed from the Breakwater to join the convoy.

We stopped for two minutes silence and I have to say it was very moving. The boat engines stopped and we floated silently looking across the water and the beach where all these poor soldiers lost their lives whilst practising a manoeuvre to save ours.

For more pictures and information, take a look at the company website news page and there's also a link from my blog Things To Do Page which shows the Fairmile in Brixham and has a link to more information about these boats if you'd like to know a bit more.

I never knew any of this until I moved to Brixham and saw the memorial plaques, and the Fairmile. So I thought I'd share this sad information with you, hope you don't mind.


  1. That's a very poignant post- well done for writing it. It's all too easy to forget these things but I think it's right that we remember. My grandpa was torpedoed during the war just off the coast, he never spoke about it but we've put the pieces together since he died. It's a remarkable story and you've given me the nudge I needed to do a post on it, thank you.

    1. Thanks CT. It was a difficult one to do as I didn't want to put all the details as I'm not an expert, and I know it's a move away from my ususal posts but it is important not to forget and try to hide it all away. I'm glad that this has helped you think about your post on your grandpas experiences.

  2. Such a moving and poignant post and what a sad event. Thank you for doing a post because I had no idea of this having happened.

    1. I suppose we can't know about everything regarding the world wars, unless it's in the family history or we follow it as a special subject of interest. However the important thing is that we still have ways of remembering and learning.

  3. I knew a little bit about this, but I've now learnt more from your interesting post. It is so important to remember it. War is terrible anyway, but events like these are particularly tragic.

    1. Hi Wendy, I'm going to write a page on the Fairmile and her history. This has made me find out a lot more about Operation Tiger and how things went so terribly wrong. When the tourist season is over we'll go back to Slapton and Torcross and I'll take some more photos.

  4. It must have been very moving stopping and observing two minutes silence. We rented a holiday in Torcross overlooking Slapton Ley. It was such a tragedy and such a huge loss of life. I'm glad that this hasn't been forgotten. I'll look forward to seeing more pictures of Torcross from you in the future. We had some lovely walks from here to Slapton and Beesands.
    Sarah x

  5. Thanks for your comment Sarah. I think the last time we visited the weather was terrible, so I couldn't take any photos, you could hardly see the beach for the rain. I'd like to spend more time at Slapton Ley Nature Reserve too.


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