Visitors to North Devon this summer will be able to discover the area’s hidden wartime past as evidenced in its iconic coastal landscape.
Thanks to an Arts Council lottery grant secured by the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, important Second World War locations, including sites used to prepare for the D-Day landings, will join a new coastal heritage trail linking the landscape with local museums’ wartime collections.
15 bronze plaques will mark significant Second World War sites along the coastline from Hartland to Mortehoe, and will be accompanied by an illustrated visitor guide.
The project, Devon D-Day, will add a new dimension to the popular Saunton D-Day/D-Day Devon event which takes place at Saunton Sands each year and recalls the training of 10,000 American GIs who arrived in 1943 to prepare for the Normandy landings among the sand-dunes of North Devon.
The £14,600 grant will also enable experts to provide educational events for local schoolchildren, provide a 1940s-style tea dance for all ages and support a mysterious drama opportunity for a handful of local young men.
Executive Member for Parks Leisure and Culture at North Devon Council, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “The coast of North Devon, with its beaches, estuaries and sand-dunes, offered American troops the perfect stand-in for the Normandy beaches while they perfected their amphibious assault strategy. 10,000 American GIs were stationed in North Devon. It was a huge thing for the local community and intriguing glimpses of the past are visible today in the North Devon landscape. We hope that this new project will enable visitors, including perhaps those descended from the American GIs themselves, to discover this vibrant part of our coastal history on the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the American forces.”
Devon D-Day is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with additional financial support from North Devon Council, North Devon Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund and North Devon Marketing Bureau.
PHOTO: First Wave 44 Living History group on Braunton Burrows.