Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

Friends of the Assault Training Center

Friends of the Assault Training Center is a not for profit group dedicated to preserving the history of the U.S. Assault Training Center please visit their website. or Facebook page

In 1943 Colonel Paul W Thompson, a United States Army engineer, was given the task of producing a doctrine to overcome German defences on the coast on Normandy in the greatest amphibious operation in military history: D-Day on the 6th of June 1944.

For this he required a training area where troops who would spearhead the assault on German occupied France could be taught the tactics and techniques of assaulting heavily fortified coastal positions.

With all the training areas already taken by the British, he was left with the one they had judged too rough and stormy for training.  This was the coastline of Woolacombe and Saunton in North Devon.

“It turned out that we were lucky beyond measure, the surf, tides, firmness of sand and flatness of those North Devon beaches bore an uncanny similarity to the same qualities of the Normandy beaches over which we would ultimately launch the invasion.  I never think of my ‘Assault Training Center’ without feeling thankful to the British for giving us that wonderful Woolacombe site, ideal for realistic training.”

When asked if the training at the Assault Training Center paid off on the sands of Normandy, his answer was an emphatic “Yes!!!”.

He added “If Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, surely the sands of North Devon beaches contributed importantly to the success of the assault over the Normandy beaches”.

For more information on a Heritage Lottery funded community project telling this story please visit the military history page.

explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project