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D-Day landing craft maintenance site on the River Dart, 560m south of Waddeton Court

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: D-Day landing craft maintenance site on the River Dart, 560m south of Waddeton Court

List entry Number: 1020911

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: South Hams

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Stoke Gabriel

National Park: N/A

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 12-Mar-2003

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 33058

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

D-Day, June 6th 1944, is one of the most significant dates in modern history, defining the start of the final phase of World War II in Europe. After 2-3 years of preparations, the assault phase of `Operation Overlord' - codenamed Neptune - lasted for little over three weeks and by 30 June had landed over 850,000 men on the invasion beachheads, together with nearly 150,000 vehicles and 570,000 tons of supplies. Sites used for the building, maintenance and repair of landing craft and landing ships were essential to developing and retaining a fleet capable of delivering Prime Minister Churchill's `great plan'. With so many vessels involved (landing craft and landing ships principally, but there were 46 different types in all), construction and maintenance were significant tasks. Contemporary descriptions refer to unprecedented levels of maritime activity, with every port, harbour and boatyard being involved, in addition to beaches and the streets of coastal towns and villages. The more substantial sites were either in largely unmodified dry docks or on specially built `gridirons' or slipways. The gridirons were used for maintenance, and took the form of a series of parallel concrete slipways running down a slight gradient into the water, allowing the boat to be floated on at high tide and repaired at low tide; some were supplied with a winch mechanism for pulling vessels onto the grid, and steel mooring points (`dolphins') for securing them when afloat. Recorded examples include sites on the Rivers Dart (Devon), Tamar and Fal (Cornwall), and in Portsmouth Harbour. Slipways, with a metal rail, winch mechanisms and dolphins, used for landing ship repairs, are recorded on the River Dart. However, much construction, repair and maintenance work was conducted on an ad hoc arrangement and leaves little trace: for example, landing craft (assault) - LCAs - were small vessels constructed and repaired mainly in back streets and improvised hards at the water's edge. Although in military archaeology fixed defences will often survive better than materiel representing the mobile offensive, sufficient of the preparations for D-Day in England remains to give an impression of the scale of the Operation, and the variety of the specific tasks involved. All sites where surviving remains provide an impression of the scale and nature of the preparations for D-Day will be considered of national importance.

The D-Day landing craft maintenance site on the River Dart, 560m south of Waddeton Court survives well although its two dolphins were removed after the War since they were considered to be a shipping hazard. The monument retains its two original slipways to their full length along with elements of their winching systems and the sheerleg emplacements which assisted in restraining the beached ships. Although the iron rails and the moveable winching mechanisms have been removed, the slipways themselves have barely been affected by later activity. The monument's survival is complemented by valuable recorded detail of the operations of USNAAB Dartmouth and by the contemporary watercolour painting of the site which shows it undertaking its repair role. These records emphasis the site's importance as part of the overall maintenance and embarkation facilities within the River Dart which assisted in the successful preparation and execution of the D-Day landings.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes a maintenance site built on the east bank of the River Dart upstream from the port of Dartmouth in South Devon to service landing ships during the preparations, engagement, and aftermath of the 1944 D-Day landings during World War II. The site includes an arrangement of two near-parallel concrete slipways which extend out from the shore and which terminate at mean low water. Operating from 1943 to 1944 the monument was one of a number of repair and maintenance sites on the River Dart which were under the control of the United States Naval Advanced Amphibious Base (USNAAB) at Dartmouth; these repair sites contributed to the D-Day preparations codenamed Operation Overlord. The slipways, each of which operated with its own winch mechanism, were designed with a slight gradient into the water. The ships could be winched forward at high tide on a low metal or timber frame which ran on rails and which could be raised up or lowered down the slipway as required. Once sufficiently beached on a receding tide the ship was then secured by chocks with the sideways tension taken up by a series of cables strung from wooden or metal poles known as sheerlegs. Repairs took place during low tide and the ships were then refloated at high tide by freeing the winching chains and releasing the holding cables. At Waddeton the two original concrete slipways both survive to their full length but the metal rails on which the winching mechanisms travelled have disappeared leaving only the bolt fastenings which attached the rails to the slipways and the concrete rail bedding recesses. The northern, upstream slipway is 110m in length of which 60m lies below the high water mark and 50m above. The slipway is 8.5m in width. Lying at the landward head of the slipway is a winch winding-block comprising an earthfast concrete block 4m by 1.5m into which are embedded four pairs of thick iron bolts protruding through the upper level of the block. At a distance of 10m behind the mounting block is a further earthfast concrete block 4.3m by 3.8m. This is considered to be the emplacement for the winch. The southern, downstream slipway is 30m apart from the northern at the head and 70m apart at mean low water. The downstream slipway has 76m of length below the high water mark and 50m above, giving a total length of 126m. It is thus slightly longer than the northern slipway but in all other respects it is identical and has the same arrangement of winching blocks at its head. Located to either side of the slipways and in the area between the two are numerous circular concrete emplacements, each of which has at its centre an embedded circular metal shoe. These emplacements, represent the bases of the sheerlegs. The poles, which rested within a metal shoe held fast by the concrete emplacements, no longer survive. Leading down to the slipways from the landward side is a metalled road constructed at the time of the operation of the site in order to facilitate the movement of vehicles carrying heavy equipment which might otherwise have become bogged down in clay and mud. A contemporary watercolour painting of the site by the American war artist Dwight C Shepler shows a Landing Craft Infantry (LCI), which was damaged on a training exercise, having new plates welded. The painting is dated March 1944 and it has been identified by Mr C Bircham as depicting the southern slipway at Waddeton. Clearly shown in the painting are elements of the winch mechanism on its moveable rail, the winch winding-block, and several of the sheerlegs. The painting is titled `The Battered Amphibian' and the landing craft shown under repair is identified only as Number 493. This maintenance site was one of several such sites on the River Dart of which only three now survive in anything like their original condition. It was constructed by the USNAAB Dartmouth which was commissioned for preparations for the D-Day invasion, providing a range of shore-base and supply facilities before and during the invasion. After D-Day the importance of USNAAB Dartmouth as a base began to wane and Waddeton Court and its slipways was handed back to the British before the end of 1944. Specifically included in the scheduling is that section of the metalled supply road which lies within the boundaries of the scheduling and which serves to provide a sample of the road which runs from the maintenance site to Waddeton Manor House. The modern wooden beach hut which lies between the two slipways, and all fencing and gateways, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.



MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Clamp, A L, Dartmouth and Kingswear during the Second World War 1939-45, (1990), 25-33
Shepler, D C, The Battered Amphibian, (1944)
Schofield, J, 'Antiquity' in D-Day Sites In England: An Assessment, , Vol. 75, (2001), 77-83

National Grid Reference: SX 87223 56178

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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This copy shows the entry on 24-Nov-2017 at 05:34:43.

End of official listing