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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Torcross Out of Season

Originally published by Gethin Thomas JULY. 03, 2020

Torcross is a village in the South Hams district of Devon in England. It stands at at the southern end of Slapton Sands, a narrow strip of land and shingle beach which separates the freshwater lake of Slapton Ley from Start Bay.

The first mention of Torcross was recorded at the manorial court in the court rolls of 29 March 1602 when it was recorded that a representative of the new village reported that everything was "all well". In 1854 the coastal road between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth was built passing through Torcross giving a much needed lifeline to the community. In 1858 a coach service started between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge.

In late 1943 Torcross was evacuated, along with many other villages in the South Hams area, to make way for 15,000 allied troops who needed the area to practice for the D Day landings.

In the early hours of 28 April 1944 a tragic incident happened during Exercise Tiger: nine German torpedo boats (Schnellboote), alerted by heavy radio traffic, intercepted a three-mile-long convoy of vessels travelling from the Isle of Portland to Slapton Sands to undertake landing rehearsals for D Day. Two Tank landing ships (LST) were sunk in the engagement and 946 American servicemen died. Poor communications led to badly-timed shelling on the beach, killing about 300 more men. Over 1,000 lives were lost over the course of the operation, most of them through US Army friendly fire.

Over the years Torcross has survived a battering from some terrible storms. On 4 January 1979 enormous waves washed over the roofs of the dwellings causing substantial damage to all the buildings along the then beach front; in the aftermath lorry-loads of boulders were brought in from the Plymouth area as temporary protection and a new curved seawall was built.

Cafe closed for winter.

Secured for the storm.

Start Point Lighthouse.

The beach level changes seasonally and from year to year. This is the lowest I have seen it back in March, with most of the Sea Defence exposed. Today the beach was back up to within about 4 metres, 12 feet of the concrete wave wall.

Slapton Ley, a freshwater lake separated from the seafront by a shingle bar.

Torcross Chapel.

Some of the older properties are still thatched. Originally they would have used reeds from the Ley.

Some of the best Fish and Chips in the area.

The beach so low that the bottom of the sea defence is visible. Today it is completely covered.

Waves have been known to break over the roofs of the cottages in the worst storms.

Thatch is often covered in chicken wire today to keep out birds and vermin.

At the top of these steps are storm gates, right and left, which can be shut during bad weather

Exercise Tiger Memorial. DD or Duplex Drive tanks, nicknamed "Donald Duck tanks", were a type of amphibious swimming tank developed by the British during the Second World War. The Duplex Drive variant of the M4 Sherman medium tank, that was used by the Western Allies during the Normandy Landings.

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