D-Day re-enactment on Devon beach where US troops trained is axed for health and safety reasons

A D-Day re-enactment on a beach where American soldiers trained for the Omaha landings has been cancelled for health and safety reasons – after ‘blown sand’ and ‘surface water’ were deemed ‘too dangerous’.

The annual event on Saunton Sands, Devon, is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK.

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches.

But organisers have issued a ‘sincere apology’ and claimed they were forced to pull the plug on this year’s event after describing the site as ‘outright dangerous’.

Residents have expressed sadness at the cancellation of Saunton D-Day – but said actual veterans who trained there would likely ‘scoff’ at the decision.

The annual event on Saunton Sands, Devon, which is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK, has been cancelled this year (pictured in 2018)

The annual event on Saunton Sands, Devon, which is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK, has been cancelled this year (pictured in 2018)

The annual event on Saunton Sands, Devon, which is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK, has been cancelled this year (pictured in 2018)

The D-Day re-enactment (pictured in 2018) was cancelled for health and safety reasons - after 'blown sand' and 'surface water' were deemed 'too dangerous'

The D-Day re-enactment (pictured in 2018) was cancelled for health and safety reasons - after 'blown sand' and 'surface water' were deemed 'too dangerous'

The D-Day re-enactment (pictured in 2018) was cancelled for health and safety reasons – after ‘blown sand’ and ‘surface water’ were deemed ‘too dangerous’

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (re-enactment pictured in 2018)

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (re-enactment pictured in 2018)

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (re-enactment pictured in 2018)

Organisers have issued a 'sincere apology' and claimed they were forced to pull the plug on this year's event after describing the site as 'outright dangerous' (enthusiasts in 2018)

Organisers have issued a 'sincere apology' and claimed they were forced to pull the plug on this year's event after describing the site as 'outright dangerous' (enthusiasts in 2018)

Organisers have issued a ‘sincere apology’ and claimed they were forced to pull the plug on this year’s event after describing the site as ‘outright dangerous’ (enthusiasts in 2018)

Assault Training Center Friends, who organised the event, said: ‘It’s with a heavy heart that we have to cancel Saunton D-Day and Devon D-Day on 5th and 6th June this year over safety issues.

‘Having inspected the tracks on Braunton Burrows, they are in such a poor state of repair they are downright dangerous.

‘Add to that the surface water everywhere that simply won’t drain away – four feet deep at the concrete landing craft yesterday.

‘Blown sand six feet high across some of the tracks off the beach. Access everywhere is so poor even the military have restricted vehicle activity.

‘None of these problems can be rectified in time and we don’t want you or your vehicle damaged so we have to look forward to next year. Our sincere apologies.’

The D-Day re-enactment on a Devon beach where American soldiers trained for the Omaha landings has been cancelled for health and safety reasons (enthusiasts with a Sherman tank at the event in 2018)

The D-Day re-enactment on a Devon beach where American soldiers trained for the Omaha landings has been cancelled for health and safety reasons (enthusiasts with a Sherman tank at the event in 2018)

The D-Day re-enactment on a Devon beach where American soldiers trained for the Omaha landings has been cancelled for health and safety reasons (enthusiasts with a Sherman tank at the event in 2018)

The event featured vintage vehicles on display all weekend, plus living history encampments for people to visit, including the GIs of First wave 44 and the Germans of 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (re-enactment pictured in 2018)

The event featured vintage vehicles on display all weekend, plus living history encampments for people to visit, including the GIs of First wave 44 and the Germans of 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (re-enactment pictured in 2018)

The event featured vintage vehicles on display all weekend, plus living history encampments for people to visit, including the GIs of First wave 44 and the Germans of 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (re-enactment pictured in 2018)

Several residents expressed sadness at the cancellation of the event (pictured in 2018) which is seen as one of the highlights of the calendar for the community

Several residents expressed sadness at the cancellation of the event (pictured in 2018) which is seen as one of the highlights of the calendar for the community

Several residents expressed sadness at the cancellation of the event (pictured in 2018) which is seen as one of the highlights of the calendar for the community 

The annual event (pictured in 2018) on Saunton Sands in Devon is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK

The annual event (pictured in 2018) on Saunton Sands in Devon is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK

The annual event (pictured in 2018) on Saunton Sands in Devon is one of the biggest World War Two battle re-enactments in the UK

The event was last held in 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the 76th anniversary of the Assault Training Centre where American troops trained in North Devon for the D-Day landings between September 1943 and April 1944.

It featured vintage vehicles on display all weekend, plus living history encampments for people to visit, including the GIs of First wave 44 and the Germans of 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

The cancellation news comes two weeks after organisers announced it was cutting the event to a two-day convoy on the 5th and 6th June due to financial cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Several residents expressed sadness at the cancellation of the event which is seen as one of the highlights of the calendar for the community.

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (re-enactment event in 2018 pictured)

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (re-enactment event in 2018 pictured)

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (re-enactment event in 2018 pictured)

Residents have expressed sadness at the cancellation of Saunton D-Day (event in 2018 pictured) - but said actual veterans who trained there would likely 'scoff' at the decision

Residents have expressed sadness at the cancellation of Saunton D-Day (event in 2018 pictured) - but said actual veterans who trained there would likely 'scoff' at the decision

Residents have expressed sadness at the cancellation of Saunton D-Day (event in 2018 pictured) – but said actual veterans who trained there would likely ‘scoff’ at the decision

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (event in 2018 pictured)

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (event in 2018 pictured)

The shore, along with the Braunton Burrows dunes, is where 10,000 American GIs trained for their assault on Omaha and Utah beaches (event in 2018 pictured)

One said: ‘How ironic that the beach is deemed too dangerous for a reenactment considering what it was used for before D-Day.

‘They obviously don’t want any accidents and you can understand they need to be careful, but you can imagine a few of the soldiers who trained there for the real thing scoffing at the decision.’

Braunton Burrows played an important role during the Second World War.

In 1943 Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Thompson was tasked with training the Americans for their assault on the heavily defended Normandy beaches.

The Devon beaches here were ideal for amphibious exercises, despite the fierce Atlantic surf, and the nearby sands were soon found to be identical to Omaha in every respect – including sand quality, beach gradient and tidal range.

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