D-Day 80th anniversary events in Plymouth and surrounding areas

The Royal Citadel on Plymouth Hoe
-Credit: (Image: Matt Gilley)


Councils all over Devon have events planned to mark the eightieth anniversary of D-Day, when many local communities found themselves at the centre of preparations for the most audacious large-scale operation of the Second World War.

From the north to the south of the county, Devon was at the forefront of preparations for Operation Overlord, the Allied landings on German-occupied beaches of Normandy which marked a turning point in the war.

Huge areas of the South Hams were evacuated so troops at Slapton could rehearse what they would do when their landing craft deposited them on the beaches of northern France. Slipways at Plymouth, Brixham and Torquay were made ready to launch them for the real thing.

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Soldiers from the 2nd Ox and Bucks Regiment ‘attacked’ the bridge at Countess Wear on the outskirts of Exeter because it was similar to Pegasus Bridge at Benouville, which they would have to seize for real on 6 June 1944.

US troops massed at a huge marshalling camp at Ivybridge, and British and American aircraft mustered on airfields at Exeter, Smeatharpe and Dunkeswell. At Woolacombe beach, American soldiers came ashore under heavy – and live – fire to give them a taste of how things would be.

In Plymouth, there will be a memorial service at Saltash Passage on Thursday, June 6, from 10.30am. This has been organised by the Federation of Ex-Services Associations. The Lord Mayor will lead a ceremony at the American War Memorial beneath the Tamar Bridge. A beacon will be lit at the Royal Citadel at 9.15pm.

There will also be a service held in Plymstock at Hooe Green, near to the Royal Oak pub. The wreath-laying will begin at 1.30pm on June 6.

Here are some of the other events planned to mark the anniversary across Devon:

Barnstaple: Memorial Service on Thursday 6 June in Rock Park at 11am, led by the Rev Dr Ben Williams. Re-enactors and tea dancing on the Square before the service. A digital heritage trail explores Barnstaple’s rich wartime history.

Brixham: Numerous events from Tuesday 4 June to Sunday 9 June, including quizzes, exhibitions and musical entertainment. Key events include a D-Day exhibition at Brixham Museum, an open event at Brixham Battery, shop window displays, quayside activities, Shoalstone Pool singalong and evening social events. The main event on Thursday 6 June features a commemoration parade led by Scottish Pipers and Drums at 10.30am. Throughout the weekend, there are sea shanty performances, brass bands, a 1940s’ music concert with Sandy Sparkle and free film screenings.

Exeter: There will be an event on Thursday 6 June at the University Boat House near the Countess Wear Bridge, which was used by troops to practice before heading out to seize Pegasus Bridge in Normandy. Exeter City Council will be working with the Army’s 6 Rifles on this event, which will be followed in the evening by a beacon lighting on the Quay. Both events will feature the band of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

Exmouth: The Strand will be the venue on Saturday 8 June for an event organised by the Royal British Legion.

Kingswear: Wartime locomotive ‘Omaha’ – named after one of the D-Day beaches in Normandy – running services on the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway on 4, 5 and 6 June.

North Devon: Devon D-Day – a heritage trail walk around the North Devon coast.

Paignton: Wartime locomotive ‘Omaha’ – named after one of the D-Day beaches in Normandy – running services on the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway on 4, 5 and 6 June.

Plymouth: Memorial service at Saltash Passage on Thursday 6 June from 10.30am, organised by the Federation of Ex-Services Associations. The Lord Mayor will lead a ceremony at the American War Memorial beneath the Tamar Bridge.

There will be a joint event between Plymouth City Council and 29 Commando, where a beacon will be lit at the Royal Citadel at 9.15pm.

There will also be a service held in Plymstock at Hooe Green, near to the Royal Oak pub. The wreath-laying will begin at 1.30pm on June 6. The Lord Mayor and military personnel will be attending the event and members of the public will be able to see the Beacon from the Hoe.

Seaton: On Thursday 6 June from 9.15pm there will be an event in Windsor Gardens, with a tribute read by the mayor and a beacon lit. Members of the public will be encouraged to use Windsor Gardens during the day should they wish to picnic on fish and chips to mark National Fish and Chips Day, which falls on the same day.

Tiverton: Mid Devon Council will raise a ‘Flag of Peace’ at 9am on Thursday 6 June at Phoenix House in conjunction with many other civic buildings. Those taking part will include The Royal British Legion; Tiverton Town Council; the Deputy Lieutenant of Devon; members of Mid Devon Council past and present; local town and parish councils; Tiverton High School and local sea cadets.

Torbay: Service on Beacon Quay, Torquay at 11am on Thursday 6 June beside the slipways used in 1944 for troops to board their landing craft. Beacon lighting at Corbyn Head, Daddyhole Plain and at Shoalstone Pool at 9.15pm. Live show at Babbacombe Theatre on Saturday 8 June and exhibition at Torquay Museum all summer.

Torquay: D-Day 80 Exhibition at Torquay Museum, with wartime artefacts including an RAF uniform, an indoor Morrison Shelter and an original Luftwaffe map of Torquay. Also video footage of American soldiers boarding transport ships in Torquay and Brixham harbours, which has only recently come to light.