On the 28th April 2014 a memorial service to mark the actual 70th Anniversary of Exercise Tiger took place in the Tank Car Park in Torcross.
Once again the team organised a very successful and moving service which saw young and old attend to remember those who gave so much for the freedoms we enjoy today.
Local schools were once again invited to attend the service with the mission of Exercise Tiger Remembered being to educate the next generation, schools were asked to be more involved with the service this year.
Each of the 7 schools invited were asked to take part in a poetry competition with the theme being ‘Exercise Tiger’. We were inundated with entries for the competition, all of which were of an extremely high standard. The judging panel, made up of former Police Officers, retired school teachers and local historians, were impressed by the entries and the students grasp of the events that took place off the coast of Slapton Sands 70 years ago. Deciding a winner was not an easy one, but it was awarded to Isabelle Gates from Kingsbridge Community Primary. Isabelle attended the service with her school and read her poem to the crowd of over 500 people, included Exercise Tiger Veteran Edward Sobczyk.
Going Down by Isabelle Gates
The ship rolled and lurched as we head to shore.
They said it was a practice but no not any more.
The ship exploded with a deafening roar
The ship’s going down, swim to shore.
Edward Sobczyk and other Guests
The guest of honour at the service was Edward Sobczyk, a previously unknown veteran of Exercise Tiger.
After the attack on Exercise Tiger Edward spent several hours saving over 100 lives before being saved himself (just in time). For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star, the second highest bravery award in the United States army which was later taken away from him when General Eisenhower chose to keep the Exercise Tiger tragedy a closely guarded secret.
There is a campaign to try and have his Silver Star reinstated, and now the local schools are getting involved following meeting him at the service. The students are busy writing letters to Governments, Blue Peter and the Queen.
Edward and his family flew over especially for the service and spent some time in Devon before continuing their journey onto Normandy to visit the beaches where Edward went onto land during D-Day, following his involvement in Exercise Tiger.
Joining the congregation for the memorial service as Captain Stracener, United States Navy Chief Naval Attaché from their Embassy in London, the Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Devon, other local dignitaries, evacuees, and local band, Torbay Brass Band, who accompanied the hymns and National Anthems beautifully on what turned out to be a glorious sunny day.
During the service there was a parade of armed forces standard bearers which was led by the Colour Party from Britannia Royal Naval College. Wreaths were also laid around the tank by the local armed forces associations and alongside handmade wreaths from the local schools.
Parade of Standard Bearers led by the Colour Party from Britannia Royal Naval College
The service was conducted as it was last year very poignantly by Reverend Peter Williamson. Jo Evans a former school teach and local historian who has recently moved from the area gave an overview of the events that happened on that tragic evening in 1944.
The service was also attended by 2 vintage military vehicles which as always were a great hit with the students, along with some uniformed personnel in authentic US uniform from 1944. All of whom were treated to a first-hand account from Edward after the service what it was like to be there during the events, all were hanging on his every word.
Organiser of the weekend John Casson, Chairman of Exercise Tiger Remembered said “this was a fitting and very moving service honouring those brave young American servicemen who died and also local people who gave up their homes. This service goes to ensure that the next generation will remember the great sacrifice made by these men and local people will continue to be remembered, we must engage with the students and I feel they have gain much from attending.”
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