Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Crow Road

Near Barnstaple in North Devon are the Braunton Burrows, the largest sand dune system in the British Isles, and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. It's a huge, wind-washed tract of marram grass, dandelions and purple thyme where it's easy to get lost among the sandy hills and gorse and swooping, trilling skylarks. In 1943 this area was selected by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Thompson of the US Army as a training area for the planned allied assault on Normandy. What became know as the US Assault Training Centre was temporary home to thousands of young Americans, living under canvas, in Nissen huts and billeted in nearby villages. The bumpy track from the Burrows car park is still known locally as the American Road and leads to an open area of grass and dunes where this dummy landing craft still stands.  There are four or five others - some with wartime graffiti - which are slowly being reclaimed by nature. These concrete replicas of 'Higgins Boats' were used by troops to rehearse what they'd be doing in deadly, bloody earnest on Omaha and Utah beaches 65 years ago, almost to the day.

1 comment:

Affer said...

Gosh, that's interesting! I've strolled the beach at Slapton where they had that catastrophic rehearsal, but never knew the history of Braunton at all. Those concrete landing craft are really fascinating - and nice to see the memorial plaque.