Eight concrete replica landing craft structures, built in 1943 for training in preparation for D-Day.
Reasons for Designation
The eight Second World War concrete replica landing craft at Braunton Burrows are listed Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a key part in the Allied forces’ preparations for and a tangible reminder of Operation Overlord and its significance to national and world history;
* the concrete structures of three of the six replica Landing Craft Tank (6) and one of the two surviving Landing Craft Mechanised are largely intact, whilst the remains of the other examples contribute to the understanding of the site overall;
* it is believed that the concrete replica landing craft structures are exceptional survivors in the national context;
* within the contextual history of the use of Braunton Burrows as an army assault training centre in the Second World War.
The United States of America entered the Second World War on 7 December 1941, following a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft on its Pacific Fleet Naval Base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, destroying ships and aeroplanes and killing almost 2,500 people. Initially unprepared for conflict in Europe, throughout 1942 America quickly mobilised its war industries and expanded its armed forces. Training for American troops began at home, but on arrival in Britain it was clear that they had not been fully-trained for assaulting the heavily-fortified and defensively-prepared French coastline.
From September 1943, the North Devon coast became an assault training centre for American troops as part of the preparations for an Allied attack on the Normandy beaches: this was codenamed Operation Overlord (more familiarly known as D-Day) and was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. The British combined forces had previously been allocated the beaches from Morte Point in the north to Crow Point in the south, but considered them unsuitable for practice due to the stormy nature of the sea. In the event, their tides and currents closely matched those at the beaches which were to be used by the American forces during Operation Overlord. Responsibility for the construction of the training areas was initially given to the American army’s 398th Engineer Service Regiment, but was soon passed to their 146th Engineer Combat Battalion; the latter were one of the first Battalions ashore at the Omaha and Utah beaches on 6 June 1944 - D-Day. The training facilities were divided into ten key areas, designated ‘A’ to ‘M’.
The southern part of Braunton Burrows, near Crow Point and within ‘Area A’, was used for training personnel in the loading, embarkation and disembarkation of landing craft. Concrete replica landing craft structures were built to the north of Broad Sands Beach, initially based on a 1942 American modification of the British Landing Craft, Tank (LCT) (5), designed to represent the top-deck of the craft with its front ramp lowered. These were then altered to the dimensions of the LCT (6) with additional aprons added to the back of the structures, allowing training to include both types of landing craft. Six-foot high metal poles at the base edges supported canvas or corrugated-tin screens to represent the sides of the craft. Thirteen craft structures were built at Braunton Burrows; six LCT (6) and seven Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM).
On the 1 September 1943 the first American units began arriving to use the training facilities. This training continued until May 1944 in the run up to D-Day.
The training structures were abandoned and a large number demolished in the late-C20. Large parts of Braunton Burrows are leased to the Ministry of Defence and some military training continues today. A memorial service is held on 6 June each year at the replica craft structures to recognise and remember the important role that the members of the Allied forces played in the liberation of Europe.
The remains of six concrete replica Landing Craft, Tank (LCT) (6) and two concrete replica Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM) structures, built for the American forces in 1943 to practice embarkation and disembarkation of vehicles and personnel in advance of the D-Day landings. To identify the craft they are designated ‘A’ to ‘H’ running east to west.
The replica landing craft structures are situated approximately 800m to the north-west of Broad Sands Beach. They are orientated roughly north-south, on the south side of a former military track (‘D’ Lane) which runs east to west. The structures were deliberately positioned offset against each other, so that they simulated the potential uneven approach to the beach.
The two easternmost structures replicate the decks of the LANDING CRAFT MECHANISED (LCM). The first - craft A - comprises a concrete base approximately 12m long by 4m wide. It consists of three sections: a rear flat panel 4m long; a slightly ramped panel 4m long; a further flat panel 1.8m long; and a downwards ramp at the front measuring 3.4m. 30cm from the edge around the rear three sections of the base is a 15cm raised lip 7cm high, with adjacent holes where temporary sides would have been attached. Craft B is overgrown and appears to have been partially demolished but is assumed to have been of the same dimensions.
The remaining concrete craft replicate the decks of six LANDING CRAFT, TANK (LCT) (6). Each concrete base measures approximately 36.3m long by 9.8m wide (119ft by 32ft) including a 3m extension to the rear. The front (north) of the replica craft has shuttered-concrete walls (or ‘jaws’) up to 2m high angled inwards around a downward-sloping textured-concrete ramp approximately 3m long. The bases have various steel rings and post holes set within them, used for lashing down vehicles and attaching temporary sides. The front walls to craft C (furthest to the east) have been partially demolished. The craft has inscribed in the concrete extension to the rear ‘Co C 1st Platoon 146th Engineers’. Craft D has a dug-out trench at the base of the ramp, occasionally filled with water; that to craft E is infilled. The jaws to craft G and H have been demolished.