ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Politics and Social Issues»
  • Social Issues

American conspiracy. The Torcross tragedy. The forgotten men.

Updated on November 13, 2012

Torcross beach today.

The sandy beach at Torcross.
The sandy beach at Torcross.

Forgotten American War Heroes. The Torcross conspiracy.

Torcross in Devon is today a peaceful, beautiful place, not the sort of place that brings to mind words such as conspiracy or death. A broad expanse of golden shingle beach stretches out across the calm waters of the bay and a large freshwater lake known as The Ley is home to a vast variety of wildfowl and creatures such as otters and water voles.

But this sleepy little village hides a story of tragedy, death and a secret from the second world war that simply would not stay hidden.

Late in the autumn of 1943 the entire population of the small Devon fishing village of Torcross were evacuated to make way for thousands of allied troops. Torcross and many other neighbouring villages including Slapton Sands were needed by the troops to practice for the top secret upcoming Normandy D-Day landings.

Slapton Sands apparently had many characteristics in common with the proposed Omaha and Utah landing sites in northern France. The USA amphibious landing training exercise operation was codenamed Exercise Tiger.

28th April 1944.

On the 28th April 1944, in the early hours, during Exercise Tiger, disaster struck.

Nine German u-boats armed with torpedoes, intercepted a 3 mile long convoy of vessels taking part in the exercise.

Two tank landing ships were sunk and two more were severely damaged. A total of 749 American Servicemen lost their lives.

The bodies of the fallen recovered from the sea and beaches were hastily buried, under cover of darkness.

They rest there still, in a mass grave. on a small farm in the hamlet of Blackawton ten miles inland from Slapton Sands.


A markerTorcross -
Torcross, Devon TQ7, UK
get directions

The sleepy little stretch of coast where the tragedy unfolded.

The memorial plaque at Torcross.

Memorial plaque to the fallen soldiers.
Memorial plaque to the fallen soldiers.

A great book to buy with all the details of operation Tiger.

A closely guarded secret.

To the outside world the disaster of operation Tiger was kept a closely guarded secret. No official communiqué was issued and the staff of the 228th Sherbourne Hospital in Dorset, who received hundreds of immersion and burns cases, were simply told to ask no questions and warned that they would be subject to court martial if they discussed the tragedy.

The top brass having decided that if the true story were to be made public it would be bad for moral. However, stories continued to circulate amongst the local people some of whom had born witness to and helped to recover bodies washed ashore in the days following the disaster.

Conspiracy theories abounded with most concentrating on the myth that the US troops had perished due to friendly fire.

Several decades after the end of World War Two the locals of Torcross and the surrounding area fought for a memorial to bring the truth of the tragedy of operation Tiger to light. The local people worked hard raising the money to fund a salvage operation and to build some form of memorial. In 1984 the wrecks of the landing crafts were found and a Sherman tank bought ashore.

The Sherman tank recovered from the sea.

Sherman tank.
Sherman tank.


The story goes that the recovered Sherman tank still worked although waterlogged and at the bottom of the sea for nearly 45 years. Its tracks rolled out like it had just come from the factory, a lasting defiance of time not forgotten. They drove it up the shore to its final resting place, where, hopefully, it will remain for many years to come.

Feeding the swans and ducks on The Ley.

Swans and ducks.
Swans and ducks.
Feeding the ducks at Slapton Ley.
Feeding the ducks at Slapton Ley.

A fitting memorial.

The recovered Sherman tank now stands proudly as a fitting memorial to all of the 749 servicemen killed here and as a constant reminder of a disaster no-one who knew of its existence wanted forgotten.

The large brooding tank looms over the beach and is a fitting memorial to all those who perished on that terrible day.

The total loss of life from the disastrous operation Tiger was ten times the actual loss of life on Utah beach on June 6 1944.

The sleepy little village of Torcross has become a place of pilgrimage for a great many US veterans and their families.

They come to lay wreaths, pay their respects and maybe stop to feed the ducks and swans before seeking refuge in the local pub for a pint and a meal of locally caught seafood.

The memory of the heroes of Torcross never far from their minds or hearts.

Some secrets are too powerful to remain a secret forever, they find a way to become known.

The Torcross conspiracy should be spoken about and remembered forever, we need to learn from the past in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Wreaths laid at the memorial stone in Torcross.

Moving tributes are still left on an almost daily basis.
Moving tributes are still left on an almost daily basis.

Had you heard of the Torcross conspiracy before reading this?

See results


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    GreyFriar 68 5 years ago

    The US Army Official History of WWII volume "Cross Channel Attack" by Gordon Harrison, published in 1951, discusses Exercise Tiger and the attack on the convoy on pages 269-70. The initial secrecy from the time of the attack on April 28,1944 until it was announced by SHAEF in late July 1944, was to protect the secrecy about the forthcoming invasion of Normany by US, British and Canadian divisions scheduled for June 1944. There is also this Official US Army History that was published in 1946 that recounted Exercise Tiger E-Boat

  • GALAXY 59 profile image

    GALAXY 59 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    I am so glad that you have managed to visit after so long, Tony Green, it is a very moving place.

  • profile image

    Tony Green Aussie Ex Vietnam Veteran 6 years ago

    I had been told of this by a relative at the time of the Sherman's recovery and to finally visit the site in Sept 2011 a very moving and wonderful experience

    It is wonderful to see a community that went through so much disruption at the time coming together to establish a wonderful memorial for those lost and those that fought it should also be in remembrance of those that picked up the pieces and kept the secret; "I Take My Hat Off To All"

  • GALAXY 59 profile image

    GALAXY 59 7 years ago from United Kingdom

    The incident was kept quite for many,many years. It is only thanks to the efforts of a small number of local people, who did know of the terrible loss of life, that it came to light at all. I think it's important for the families of the men who died to know the exact circumstances.

  • Michael Adams1959 profile image

    Michael Adams1959 7 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

    I too have never heard of this, thanks for bringing it to us here on the hubs

  • tmbridgeland profile image

    tmbridgeland 7 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

    Thanks. I had never heard of this incident.