Created 23 January 2002 Update: 30 Jan 2018
April 28th 1944
Eye Witness Account
BBC Devon phoned me and told me in March 04, that Ken Small had died in mid March 2004. For whatever reasons you did all this hard work Ken, a lot of people are very grateful to you. On Page 3 I have reproduced an allegedly true story of little Johnny Spooner, a 14 year old of Devon, and his personal memories of the Yanks who lived nearby, and one day, they didn't! Excellent story of Devon in the war. My thanks to Erich (below) for The E Boat information. Johnny Spooner - Click Here
In World War 2 German listening posts were quite adept at cross bearings and finding locations based on the interception of radio signals. During the occupation of Holland, agents were quickly captured due to this expertise. In 1944 German listening posts along the Atlantic Wall, France, picked up prolific signals emanating from American Forces in the South West of England. They were listening in on Exercise Tiger. Using Slapton Sands, the American Forces were about to practice for the D Day Landings at Utah Beach. Slapton Sands resembled Utah Beach in many ways including the cliffs which lay behind the 1800 year old shingle barrier and beach.
In 1943, 3000 local people and their animals and all their belongings had been evacuated from the Slapton and Torcross area for almost a year whilst the beach was used for practice landings. One old man committed suicide rather than leave his home. Live ammunition was being used and a local hotel was destroyed in the landings.
Operation Tiger involved 30,000 soldiers, including troops from the Infantry Division, 279th Combat Engineers and 70th Tank Battalion, US Army. Landing craft were used to deploy the soldiers, and their equipment, onto the beaches, were they were supposed to beat the enemy. A convoy of ships set sail from local ports, including Dartmouth and Plymouth. Escorts were provided by the Royal Navy. HMS Scimitar, a destroyer, was to take the lead and a corvette, HMS Azalea, bring up the rear. The first signs of anything going wrong was that HMS Scimitar was rammed and holed by another vessel and was ordered to remain in port. Nobody thought to inform the Commander of the operation of this fact. The convoy started without an escort and the corvette, HMS Azalea, had no radio contact with the Landing Craft - it was not deemed necessary! A typing error in the frequencies has come to light as a probable cause - the ships did not have the same information!
On this page there are several "versions" of what happened. However, I must trust to the dedicated research carried out so painstakingly by Ken Small, and think that his book is probably the nearest to the truth as we are ever likely to hear. There are many eye witness reports in his book which I trust a damn sight more than so called "official" history. Over the next few weeks I shall be adding some more images and some extracts from Ken's book so keep coming back to check updates please. I also have now attached (Aug 2008) an email from a journalist who is quite strong in his views on this. It is on page 2 and was received by me in December 2006.
As the convoy sailed into Start Bay, westernmost corner of Lyme Bay, German E Boats found them and opened fire on a defenceless convoy, killing 749 soldiers. This was the evening of 27 April 1944. German Intelligence had listened to the American radio traffic and dispatched 9 E Boats from their home port, Cherbourg, creating this large scale disaster. Landing Craft 507 and 531 were sunk, 289 was badly damaged. The losses were 4 times more than lost on D Day itself at Utah. General Eisenhower ordered all bodies recovered, especially 10 officer personnel who had on their possession actual maps of the Utah Beach. All bodies were recovered, with the whole sorry episode hushed up the mission was still secure.
It was two hours after midnight on 28 April,
1944. Since the moon had just gone down, visibility was fair. The sea was calm.
A few hours earlier, in daylight, assault forces of the U S 4th Infantry Division had gone ashore on Slapton Sands, a stretch of beach along the south coast of England that closely resembled a beach on the French coast of Normandy, code-named Utah, where a few weeks later U.S. troops were to storm ashore as part of history's largest and most portentous amphibious assault: D-Day.
The assault at Slapton Sands was known as Exercise Tiger, one of several rehearsals conducted in preparation for the momentous invasion to come. So vital was the exercise of accustoming the troops to the combat conditions they were soon to face that commanders had ordered use of live naval and artillery fire, which could be employed because British civilians had long ago been relocated from the region around Slapton Sands. Individual soldiers also had live ammunition for their rifles and machine guns.
German torpedoes hit three of the LSTs. One lost its stern but eventually limped into port. Another burst into flames, the fire fed by gasoline in the vehicles aboard. A third keeled over and sank within six minutes. There was little time for launching lifeboats. Trapped below decks, hundreds of soldiers and sailors went down with the ships. Others leapt into the sea, but many soon drowned, weighted down by water-logged overcoats and in some cases pitched forward into the water because they were wearing life belts around their waists rather than under their armpits. Others succumbed to hypothermia in the cold water. When the waters of the English Channel at last ceased to wash bloated bodies ashore, the toll of the dead and missing stood at 198 sailors and 551 soldiers, a total of 749, the most costly training incident involving U.S. forces during World War II. Whilst all this was unfolding, MGB's of our Coastal Services could see flashes from the battle, whilst on patrol, but were not ordered to intercept the E boats or investigate and knew nothing of the tragedy taking place nearby. MGB's. Norman Hine's story - click the link.
Allied commanders were not only concerned about the loss of life and two LSTs -- which left not a single LST as a reserve for D-Day -- but also about the possibility that the Germans had taken prisoners who might be forced to reveal secrets about the upcoming invasion. Ten officers aboard the LSTs had been closely involved in the invasion planning and knew the assigned beaches in France; there was no rest until those 10 could be accounted for: all of them drowned. A subsequent official investigation revealed two factors that may have contributed to the tragedy -- a lack of escort vessels and an error in radio frequencies. Although there were a number of British picket ships stationed off the south coast, including some facing Cherbourg, only two vessels were assigned to accompany the convoy -- a corvette and a World War I era destroyer. Damaged in a collision, the destroyer put into port, and a replacement vessel came to the scene too late. Because of a typographical error in orders, the U.S. LSTs were on a radio frequency different from the corvette and the British naval headquarters ashore. When one of the picket ships spotted German torpedo boats soon after midnight, a report quickly reached the British corvette but not the LSTs. Assuming the U.S. vessels had received the same report, the commander of the corvette made no effort to raise them. Whether an absence of either or both of those factors would have had any effect on the tragic events that followed would be impossible to say, but probably not. The tragedy off Slapton Sands was simply one of those cruel happenstances of war. I received an email in October 2008 from Lois Behrens Orjuela who tells me that (her) father died here and that his body was never recovered. Lt. Cmdr. John W. Behrens was on LST 531.
Meanwhile, orders went out imposing the strictest secrecy on all who knew or might learn of the tragedy, including doctors and nurses who treated the survivors. There was no point in letting the enemy know what he had accomplished, least of all in affording any clue that might link Slapton Sands to Utah Beach.
Nobody ever lifted that order of secrecy, for by the time D-Day had passed, the units subject to the order had scattered. Quite obviously, in any case, the order no longer had any legitimacy particularly after Gen. Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, in July 1944 issued a press release telling of the tragedy. Notice of it
was printed, among other places, in the soldier newspaper, Stars & Stripes.
With the end of the war, the tragedy off Slapton Sands -- like many another wartime events involving high loss of life, such as the sinking of a Belgian ship off Cherbourg on Christmas Eve, 1944, in which more than 800 American soldiers died--received little attention. There were nevertheless references to the tragedy in at least three books published soon after the war, including a fairly detailed account by Capt. Harry C. Butcher (Gen. Eisenhower's former naval aide) in My Three Years With Eisenhower (1946).
That had its beginnings in 1968 when a former British policeman, Kenneth Small, moved to a village just off Slapton Sands and bought and operated a small guest house. Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Mr. Small took long walks along the beach and began to find relics of war: unexpended cartridges, buttons and fragments from uniforms. Talking with people who had long lived in the region, he learned of the heavy loss of life in Exercise Tiger. Why, Mr. Small asked himself, was there no memorial to those who had died? There was that monument the U.S. Army had erected to the British civilians thanking them for vacating the region during the run up to D Day, but there was no mention of the dead Americans. To Mr. Small, that looked like an official cover-up. From local fishermen; he learned of a U.S. Sherman tank that lay beneath the waters a mile offshore, a tank lost not in Exercise Tiger but in another rehearsal a year earlier. At considerable personal expense, Mr. Small managed to salvage the tank and place it on the plinth just behind the beach as a memorial to those Americans who had died. The memorial was dedicated in a ceremony on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. This tank had a missing plate underneath the hull which had gone unnoticed until they tried to "launch" it. The tank filled up with water, turning to steam on the hot engine, mistaken for smoke, and went straight to the bottom.
May 25 2002. I met Mr Small (pictured above) alongside this tank on this date. Incidentally, we were both born in the same town, Hull in Yorkshire. I had travelled down with my wife and daughter to Tiverton, the next morning continuing down to Slapton Sands to take the images posted below for myself. I was delighted to meet him and after a brief talk I took his photograph alongside his Sherman and bought from him an autographed copy of his book "The Forgotten Dead". He has also given me permission to reproduce, on here, some images and notes from his book. My 470 mile round trip was well worth it, if only to meet Mr Small in person. I have read this book and my first impression is one of a cock up on a monumental scale! Due to typing errors, the radio frequencies for the escorts and the "covering craft" were wrongly given in the mission orders. Tales of heroism and of complete chaos; of American soldiers, as young as 19 in some cases, slipping from life rafts and succumbing to the cold deep sea. Of LSTs floundering about in circles, not knowing what they were supposed to do , officers killed outright and leaderless men jumping into the flaming sea. Of life boats with rusted up tackle - the soldiers unable to launch them due to the rusted release pins. So many soldiers died due to complete incompetence and severely disabled equipment. Soldiers who were ordered not to return fire on the E boats as "it may give positions away". Another point from Ken's book is the complete and utter intransigence of the British Authorities from Local Council to Westminster and the friendly warmth and help from the American authorities. In particular Beverly Byron in Congress. I am dismayed and amazed by the lack of support from the (modern) British Army (3 RTR) which was probably the RAC Centre Regiment at Bovington Camp Dorset, at the time. From "We will be delighted to help" to their 11th hour pull out with no explanations. As an ex "tankie" myself (1 RTR), it leaves me a bit shame faced. Almost leaving Ken in the lurch, with no backup to remove the tank from the channel, until a kind civilian helped out with the right gear. The Royal Navy did assist by providing a ship to raise the tank from the seabed and get it to within hauling distance of the shore. As I go through the book again, I will make notes of those who helped Ken realise this beautiful dream and give them due credit below. I would also like to add here my own greetings to those wonderful people of Kansas who made Ken so happy and welcome on his trip to the function.
That ceremony prompted the first spurt of accusations by the British and American press of a cover-up, but they were soon silenced by publication of two detailed articles about the tragedy: one in American Heritage magazine co-authored by a former medical officer, Dr. Ralph C. Greene, who had been stationed at one of the hospitals that treated the injured; the other in a respected British periodical, After the Battle. Those were carefully researched, authoritative and comprehensive articles; if anybody had consulted them three years later, they would put to rest any charges of a cover-up and various other unfounded allegations. Kenneth Small, meanwhile, wanted more. Although persuaded at last that there had been no cover-up, he nevertheless wanted an official commemoration by the U.S. government to those who had died. Receiving an invitation from an ex-Army major who had commanded the tank battalion whose lost tank Mr. Small had salvaged, he went to the United States where the ex-major introduced him to his congresswoman, Beverly Byron, who as it turned out is the daughter of Gen. Eisenhower's former naval aide, Capt. Butcher.
With assistance from the Pentagon, Rep. Byron arranged for a private organization, the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army in Colorado, where the 4th Infantry Division is stationed, to provide a plaque honouring the American dead. She also attached a rider to a congressional bill calling for official U.S. participation in a ceremony unveiling the plaque alongside Ken Small's tank at Slapton Sands. Information about that pending ceremony scheduled for 15 November, 1987, set the news media off. There were accusations not only of a cover-up, but also of heavy casualties inflicted by U.S. soldiers, who presumably did not know they had live ammunition in their weapons, firing on other soldiers. Nobody questioned why soldiers would bother to open fire if they thought they had only blank ammunition ... or why a soldier would not know the difference between live ammunition and blanks when one has bullets, the other not. Nor was there actually any evidence of anybody being killed by small arms fire. (As an ex serviceman myself, I knew when I had "live" ammo or not!)
There surfaced a new an allegation made earlier by a local resident, Dorothy Seekings, (This was almost certainly a hoax - mk) who maintained that as a young woman she had witnessed the burial of "hundreds" of Americans in a mass grave (she subsequently changed the story to individual graves). Dorothy Seekings also claimed that the bodies are still there. At long last, somebody in the news media -- a correspondent for BBC television--thought to query the farmer on whose land the dead are presumably buried. He had owned and lived on that land all his life, said the farmer, and nobody was ever buried there. That tallies with U.S. Army records that show that in the first few days of May 1944, soon after the tragedy, hundreds of the dead were interred temporarily in a World War I U.S. military cemetery at nearby Blackwood. Following the war, those bodies were either moved to a new World War II U.S. military cemetery at Cambridge or, at the request of next of kin, shipped to the United States. Yet many like Ken Small continued to wonder why it took the U.S. government 43 years to honour those who died off Slapton Sands. Those who wondered failed to understand U.S. policy for wartime memorials.
Soon after World War I, Congress created an independent agency, the American Battle Monuments Commission, to construct overseas U.S. military cemeteries, to erect within them appropriate memorials and to maintain them. Anybody who has seen any of those cemeteries, either those of World War I or of World War II, recognizes that no nation honours its war dead more appropriately than does the United States.
Only the American Battle Monuments Commission, not the U.S. Army, Air Force or Navy, has authority to erect official memorials to American dead, and the American Battle Monuments Commission limits its memorials to the cemeteries, which avoids a proliferation of monuments around the world. Private organizations, such as division veterans' associations, are nevertheless free to erect unofficial memorials but are responsible for all costs, including maintenance. Soon after the end of the war, veterans of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, which incurred the heaviest losses in Exercise Tiger, did just that, erecting a monument on Omaha Beach to their dead, presumably to include those who died at Utah Beach and those who died in preparation for D-Day. At Cambridge, there stands an impressive official memorial erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission to all those Americans who died during World War II while stationed in the British Isles. That includes the 749 who died in the tragedy off Slapton Sands, and there one finds the engraved names of the missing. Long before 15 November, 1987, the U.S. government had already honoured those soldiers and sailors who died in Exercise Tiger.
Media Responses (NOT necessarily my opinion!)
It was a disaster which lay hidden from the World for 40 years . . . an official American Army cover-up."
What was that terrible event so heinous as to prompt those accusations of perfidy 43 years later from the British news media from some American newspapers and in a particularly antagonistic three-part report from the local news of the ABC affiliate in Washington D. C. WJLA-TV? There is an old saying in the media: 'never let the truth come in the way of a good story'
for the Normandy Invasion, the United States Army conducted various training
exercises at Slapton Sands in Start Bay and in the nearby Tor Bay, beginning on December 15, 1943. Slapton was an
unspoilt beach of coarse gravel, fronting a shallow lagoon that was backed by bluffs that resembled
Utah Beach. After the people in the nearby village were evacuated, it was an almost perfect place to simulate the Normandy landings. The training was long and thorough. The culmination of the joint training program was a pair of full scale rehearsals in late April and early May.
LST 289 - Ex Tiger , and below
This Convoy T-4 consisted of two sections from two different ports. The Plymouth section, LST Group 32, was composed of USS LST-515, USS LST-496, USS LST-511, USS LST-531, and USS LST-58, which was towing two pontoon causeways. The Brixham section consisted of USS LST-499, USS LST-289, and USS LST-507. The convoy joined with HMS Azalea as escort and proceeded at six knots in one column with the LSTs in the same order as listed above. When the convoy was manoeuvring in Lyme Bay in the early hours of April 28, they were attacked by nine German E-boats out of Cherbourg that had evaded the Allied patrols. No warning of the presence of enemy boats had been received until LST-507 was torpedoed at 0204. The ship burst into flames, and survivors abandoned ship. Several minutes later LST-531 was torpedoed and sank in six minutes. LST-289, which opened fire at E-boats, was also torpedoed but was able to reach port. The other LSTs plus two British destroyers fired at the E-boats, which used smoke and high speed to escape. This brief action resulted in 198 Navy dead and missing and 441 Army dead and missing according to the naval action reports. Later Army reports gave 551 as the total number of dead and missing soldiers. The final training exercise FABIUS took place between May 3-8, without any enemy attacks. LST 508 missed the action and survived due to a pre exercise collision in the channel with a freighter. Consequently her crew lived on instead of ...... (see email copy reprinted below)
To keep the Germans from possibly learning about the impending Normandy Invasion, casualty information on Operation TIGER was not released until after the invasion. On August 5, 1944, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force released statistics on the casualties associated with the Normandy Invasion, which included information about the German E-Boat attack on April 28. This information was also published in the August 7 issue of The Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper of the U. S. Armed Forces in the European Theatre. The Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, holds the originals of both these sources. Over the years, details on the training exercises and the resulting losses have appeared in such published sources as Samuel Eliot Morison's The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944-1945 (1957), volume XI of his 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, and Roland Rupenthal's Logistical Support of the Armies (1953) and Gordon Harrison's Cross-Channel Attack, which are both part of the multi-volume series United States Army in World War.
This report printed in the above paragraphs also makes the mistake of claiming that it was actually Omaha beach that these exercises were in place for - conflicting reports; conflicting information. I amended it to read Utah. I think it is apparent that Eisenhower and his General's DID hush up news of this disaster - but only so that military security and secrecy could be maintained - how many more lives would have been lost if the Germans found out anything? Eisenhower himself said that if the maps were not found, the whole "show" was off. According to information contained above and on the net, the "secrecy" surrounding this exercise was in fact "made public" after the successful Normandy landings. (See email below on this account, relatives were told nothing). I am no expert and do not claim to be, but this is one incident that may never be successfully and satisfactorily sorted out.
Events according to www.exercisetiger.org
What began as a top secret naval operation to prepare US Army and Naval forces for the June 6th D-Day Invasion, would end with one of the highest losses ever suffered in combat by the US Army and Navy in WW II.
At 0135 on the morning of April 28th, 1944, eight Tank Landing Ships (LST's) and their lone escort, the British corvette HMS AZALEA, were en route to the landing area. Slapton Sands was selected because its beach looked every bit like the beaches at Normandy that would be code named Utah and Omaha by the allies. The eight LST's of LST Group 32, formed convoy T-4. they were the support group for elements of the 4th & 29th Infantry, 82nd Airborne and 188th Field Artillery Group already ashore at Slapton Sands.
The LST's were carrying the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, the 3206th Quartermaster Company from Missouri, the 3207th Company and 462nd and 478th combat truck support companies as well as other elements of the US Army's engineer, signal, medical and chemical corps along with some infantry. Miles south in the mouth of Lyme bay, lay the bulk of the Tiger naval force. Protected by the cruiser USS AGUSTA and the new British "O" class destroyers HMS ONSLOW and HMS OBEDIENT as well as the Tribal Class destroyer HMS ASHANTI and a covering force of motor torpedo boats. Anchored along with LST's 55 and 382 they would be of no help to the ambushed LST force of T-4. Attacking in the pitch black night, 9 German Navy "E" boats (torpedo) struck quickly and decisively. Without warning LST 507 was torpedoed first. Explosions and flame lit the night. At 0217 LST 531 is torpedoed. It sinks in six minutes. Of the 496 soldiers and sailors on her, 424 of them died. It would be on this ship that the state of Missouri would lose some 201 of its boys of the 3206th. LST 289 tried to evade the fast German "E" boats but was hit in the stern. LST's 496, 515, and 511 all began firing at their attackers, LST 289 joined in returning fire while lowering landing craft to pull it out of harms way.
At 0225 the LST 499 radioed for help. Minutes later the lead ship, LST 515 sent out an urgent and chilling message. " 'E' boat attack". Radio stations along the coast pick up the dramatic calls for help, unaware of the top secret operation underway, the calls go unanswered. Only after an alert radio operator heard the words "T-4", did the Naval Command realize the calls were from "Tiger" and send help. By 0240 the horror was slowly realized. Two LST's sunk, a third lay crippled. Of the 4000 man force nearly a fourth were missing or killed . Official Dept. of Defence records confirm 749 dead , 551 US Army and 198 US Navy. The death toll makes "Tiger" the costliest battle to U.S. forces at that point in the war after Pearl Harbour. On April 28th, 1944, the LST's darkest yet finest hour occurred. When, for one hour, the men and ships of Convoy T-4 fought the greatest naval battle ever faced by an LST force in history. Against superior enemy warships, the Tiger amphibious force held its own. The German attack did not stop Exercise Tiger. Landing operations resumed later on the 28th. It is a credit to the tenacity and determination of the soldiers and sailors involved in Exercise Tiger, that the D-Day invasion at Normandy occurred as planned. The events surrounding Exercise Tiger were officially declassified in early August 1944, two months after the Normandy Invasion. On April 28th 1996 Secretary of The Navy John Dalton stated in his remarks “Tiger….was the LST’s finest hour.”
In Peter Scott's book "The Battle of The Narrow Seas" published in 1945 he makes a vague reference to the disaster at Slapton. As he was on the planning staff at Portsmouth "Plot" prior to D Day, he would have been ideally placed to learn of this catastrophe. He refers to E boat successes prior and during D Day. He writes " Only once in that time did the E Boats achieve anything of consequence. That was during an invasion exercise when they got in amongst a convoy of landing craft in Lyme Bay and wrought serious devastation and heavy loss of life; it was their sole success although they were at sea night after night". Even in this brief reference Scott gives the E Boats undue credit. The vast majority of American losses were from alleged friendly fire from their own forces on the beach! At the time of writing his book (1945) he must have known of the real reasons over 900 US servicemen met their deaths.
From Ray Holden: (www.hmskite.com)I saw a ITV documentary about Slapton, that is how I came to hear about it. Veterans of Slapton appeared on it, one of them was coxswain of an LST. These veterans openly cried when describing how they were pinned down on the beach by friendly fire. They even described from what direction the machine gun was firing. Dozens of men were killed and apparently were posted as being killed in action. In my own personal opinion this is where the cover up came in. From me: I hope my American friends will forgive me but this seems to be "nothing new". How many times do we hear of US forces bombing Allies and their own? Gulf War - all British losses down to "friendly fire" and Afghanistan - how many "friendly" deaths? Iraq too - "friendly" deaths. I suspect that the "dozens" of US soldiers that allegedly died by friendly fire can only be resolved by exhuming bodies and checking for bullets - I doubt if survivors of these families would like to find that out! Apparently some American soldiers were also killed by Royal Naval gunfire when they crossed lines they were supposed to remain behind - or did their officers not pass the orders on? More mystery? On this I have since found a newspaper report dated 1997 in which witnesses clearly state that they saw US soldiers being "mown down" by their own troops!
Oral Histories - Exercise Tiger, 28 April 1944 ( www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq87-3g.htm )
Recollections by LT Eugene E. Eckstam, MC, USNR, (Ret.), a medical officer on USS LST-507.
Adapted from:"The Tragedy of Exercise Tiger," Navy Medicine 85, no. 3 (May-Jun 1994): 5-7.
The following images were taken by me on 25th May 2002
My first ever book, features a Chapter on Exercise Tiger
If you wish to purchase this book please contact Ken Small's Estate directly at the following address:
The price is £9.99 PLUS Postage
Ken Small gave out this postcard with each signed book. On
the rear, apart from his name, address and phone numbers
Email from Deb in Kansas (her father was on LST 289) - "Good additional material for my children to use in educating history teachers who are not aware of this exercise. Also, my father states he was sworn to secrecy and it was NOT brought forth to the public following WWII. There are many families who lost relatives that will state the same thing. What they were told was not the truth about the situation of their loved ones death."
Email Received 18 Dec 02. Hi Mike, Just by chance, via Google, I came across your report on Ken Small's book. I now live in Sarasota, Florida, but spent a large part of my life in Paignton Devon. My Wife and I ran a small Guest house there. One day, out of Season we had an American Gentleman knock on our door looking for accommodation. It turned out that he was involved in the Tiger fiasco and had come over to retrace his wartime steps. His name was Harold Wilson and he was a professor at Florida University in Talahassee ( small World Huh? ) As we were fairly quiet at that time we had the chance to run him around to his old haunts. His stories, and the way he reacted to seeing Slapton again, were amazing. He said nothing had changed. Every corner we took on the coastal road..............he knew what was around the corner. It was like he had never left. We kept in touch for a while and then got no replies to our letters. When we moved over here about 10 years ago we tried again, but got no response. We still have a son and his family living in Paignton and on one of our return trips we went to Slapton and met with Ken and purchased one of his books. We have lent it out to many American friends and they are all amazed that this had happened, totally oblivious of the sad loss of life in "practice " in 1944. I was also saddened to read in your pages that the US STILL have not learned much from their mistakes in the past, Friendly fire is still a Major cause of Death to America's allies. Hopefully they get it right next time, God forbid that there is a next time, but that seems unlikely. Congratulations on an excellent Web page, wishing you continued success, George Layland
Email received 15th March 2004. Having logged on to and read your page about Exercise Tiger, I write, representing my older Brother John who is almost 80 years old and as a 19 year old serving in the British Naval Coastal Forces on the night of the 28th April 1944, he was serving on HMS RML 532 and was within 5 miles of the attack on the LST convoy. He also spent 2 hours of the following morning in the waters of the channel recovering the bodies of young American soldiers. Jim Cullen.
Email received 16 March 2004. I was a Lieut. (XO (Executive Officer & Navigator) on LST 508 that was ordered and scheduled for the Tiger Exercise, but on the way to pick up Army, was in heavy fog in the English Channel where it was struck by a freighter in convoy going in the other direction. The bow anchor was torn off and the bow door damaged. It would not open, thus the LST 508 returned to Falmouth for repair. Orders were obtained to permit burning and welding all night. Repair could not be made in time and the LST 507 took our place. And as you reported was sunk. And yes, it was all kept secret. Our pay records went down with the LST 507 and we received no pay for a couple of months. As I recall the LST 508 was on way from Falmouth to Plymouth to pick up our load for the Tiger Exercise, but failed do to the collision in the fog as mentioned in my prior message. (As I recall our orders were marked SECRET and the ship's log would have not indicated the destination prior to arrival, thus even with the log I could verify that Plymouth was correct.) Our ship's officers and crew felt great sadness hearing of the loss of LST 507 where many were close friends. When back in Falmouth, England my commanding officer, Lt. John G. Holmes, of LST 508 reported to our Flotilla Commander who was surprised at seeing him. Our ship, LST 508 was about to be reported lost based on the collision report. No doubt some of this confusion resulted from the sinking and damage of those in the Tiger Exercise. As you may imagine the talk on the LST 508 "What if. . .?" when it was learned the LST 508 had been sunk. Cdr. E. F. Freeman, USNR (Ret.)
March 17th 2004. I have just been informed by Sophie Pierce of BBC Radio Devon that Ken Small died earlier this week. Rest in Peace Ken.
February 12th 2006. Unsigned Email. I was fortunate to have read your website on Operation Tiger of 1944. My interest in this is due to my Dad being among go those torpedoed that awful night. My Dad survived but many of his fellow soldiers did not. He kept the watch of that day. Do you have a list of the soldiers on that exercise or a way to check names on such a list? My Dad passed away a few years ago and I sure would like to find out more about that awful night. He told me that he was hanging onto a piece of wood to stay afloat all night long in the freezing water and was finally picked up in the morning by a British ship. He thought that after his recovering in Britain they may send him home after such an ordeal. Instead he was part of the Normandy invasion. My Dad was a great man and I miss him everyday. He was proud to serve his country. May he rest in peace. (See Op Tiger home site linked below).
further updates can also be found on page 2 - see below
The E Boats
5th S-Flottille commanded by Korvettenkapitän Bernd Klug through June of 44. On hand at Cherbourg were:
Because of this operation in June of 44 the S-booten protective bays were obliterated and nearly all the boots sunk but some did escape info: Erich
The Schenllboote that took part in the mission were thus as follows.
The following was received from the same site as Erich, but from Xavier -Dec 04
The only known, surviving and seaworthy S-boot, S-130, was built at the Johann Schlichting boatyard as hull 1030 in Travemünde, on the Baltic Coast, and commissioned on October 21st 1943. Her Commanding Officer was Oberleutnant zur See Gunter Rabe and she was assigned to the 9th S-Boot Flotilla (commanded by Korvettenkapitän Götz Freiherr von Mirbach, one of the
most famous S-Boot commanders of the war) to reinforce their presence in the Southern North Sea. They operated out of Rotterdam until mid-February 1944, when they re-deployed to Cherbourg in order to reinforce the 5th Flotilla (under Korvettenkapitän Bernd Klug) in their operations throughout the Central and Western Channel area. Throughout her service, her radio
callsign was “Rabe” (Raven), her dashing Master was known by all in the 5th and 9th Flotillas as “The Raven” and she wore a ship’s crest incorporating a raven in addition to the usual 9th Flotilla sign. The two Flotillas in Cherbourg were directed from his HQ on the French mainland by Kapitän zur See Petersen (later to become Commander of the whole German
Sir Peter Scott, the famous naturalist, commanded Motor Gun Boats (MGB's) in the Channel during WW2 and published a book, "The Battle of the Narrow Seas" - long out of print. I was fortunate to obtain a first edition 1945. In this he briefly mentions Exercise Tiger; which was shrouded in deepest secrecy for a long time. On page 187 he is writing about Portsmouth and E boats and he goes on about the Portsmouth Plot:
"It was from this plotting room --- that a complete picture of the naval part of the invasion was continuously made available to Allied Commanders, and it was from here too that the Channel war against E Boats and enemy shipping was conducted during the months before. Only once in that time did the E Boat achieve anything of significance. That was during an invasion exercise when they got in amongst a convoy of landing ships in Lyme Bay and wrought serious devastation and heavy loss of life; it was their sole success although they were at sea night after night."
30 Jan 2018. I received an email, which contained some info you should be aware of. My name is Laurie Bolton, and my uncle died in Exercise Tiger, on board LST 531. I am a close friend of Dean Small, son of the late Ken Small, and together we are part of a non-profit organization called Exercise Tiger Memorial, Ltd. He is Director, and I am an Honorary Director. Please see our website: www.exercisetiger.com. Thank You Laurie.
In memory: Sgt. Louis A. Bolton, who perished on Board LST 531 and all his comrades.
Finally, a comment from an American Colonel to Ken: Quote:
"Man, you have been up and down two great mounds
www.slapton.org The Village
www.exercisetiger.com - Deans (Ken's son) site
Axis History Site & Forum
www.prinzeugen.com/DesignManufacture.htm E Boats