Spectacular sights were enjoyed by thousands of spectators at Saunton last Saturday (4th June) as ‘Devon D-Day’ returned to the beach for its second year. History was brought to life as 6 wartime aircraft and around 20 military vehicles descended onto Saunton Beach, which was once used by American Soldiers in training. Visitors were also treated to an impressive pyrotechnic display of a pillbox assault, complete with smoke, bangs, and explosions from blank ammunition.
Crowds flocked to the dunes to enjoy a magnificent view of the planes descending onto a specially marked runway which was stewarded by uniformed reenactors. After landing, the aircraft journeyed up the beach to form a static display – here, spectators got the chance to take a closer look at the planes and chat to the pilots. Pilot Richard Horner said: “The crowd were excited and interested and clapped us as we exited our aircraft before swarming us to have a closer look.”
The planes had to leave earlier than expected due to the fast-approaching sea mist. Again, the crowds lined the beach to cheer the pilots and wave them off as they took to the sky.
Later in the afternoon, a number of military vehicles took place in a convoy along the beach with uniformed reenactors riding as passengers. Drivers sounded their horns and waved to spectators – it was a truly magnificent display!
Photo credit: Oisin Carr- Eighty Sixth Floor Music.
In the car park, a military-style camp had been created with tents, jeeps, and trucks. Here, reenactors and military enthusiasts put on displays and ran activities, such as airsoft firing range.
Devon D-Day 2016 was organised by the Friends of the Assault Training Centre (FATC), supported by Saunton Beach Enterprises and Saunton Sands Hotel. Richard Bass from the FATC said: “(We) are delighted that so many people attended to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day 6th June 1944 and learn the vital role North Devon played in preparing those young American soldiers for what lay before them on the beaches of Normandy.”
The commemorative event marks the 72nd anniversary of the Normandy Landings and pays tribute to the thousands of men who trained on the North Devon coast during WW2. The entire coastal area from Braunton Burrows to Morte Point was assigned to the U.S. Army as their Assault Training Centre (A.T.C.) in September of 1943. In six months, over 10,000 American troops trained at the ATC.
A massive thank you goes to all of the pilots, reenactors, and vehicle owners who spared the time to make Devon D-Day 2016 such a fantastic success.