By Mark Khan
Preceded by a massive airborne assault, the largest amphibious operation ever undertaken began on 6 June 1944 - D-Day.
Over a fifty-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline 160,000 Allied troops came ashore on the beaches of Normandy. Supported by more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft, they quickly gained a foot-hold in Fortress Europe.
To plan and execute such a massive military operation successfully required training. The stakes were high. There was one chance to see the landings work; failure was inconceivable. Much work was required to be done, new tactics to be worked out, new technologies to be utilised. Most of all, the training for the amphibious assault required beaches. Such locations would need to be as representative of the actual landing beaches as possible, large enough to support exercises up to divisional level and be able to safely allow the live firing of weapons both by the supporting naval and air forces as well as that of the assaulting troops.
The peace of the South Devon coast was soon shattered as what came to be known as the Slapton Sands Assault Training Centre. Such was the scale of the training that almost all of the US troops involved in D-Day itself landed on the beach at Slapton Sands at one time, some more than once.