Point of departure

TORWOOD STREET RUNS downhill to the harbour of Torquay in Devon. This usually busy street is currently (March 2022) closed to vehicular traffic because it is undergoing repairs including resurfacing. During WW2, the street was resurfaced with concrete sufficiently strong to bear the weight of tanks and other heavy military vehicles that were making their way downhill to the harbour. One of our friends in Torquay told me that the current roadworks was partly to replace the concrete surface that was laid down in the 1940s. This US military equipment was on its way to the beaches of Normandy, where the invasion of German occupied France took place: the D Day Landings in 1944.

When these heavy vehicles reached the water’s edge, they had to be loaded onto boats. Concrete embarkation ramps were constructed in May 1943. They were used to load the equipment onto seagoing vessels in June 1944 to carry out Operation Overlord, which involved landing the US forces onto the Normandy coast. The concrete slipways, which have been preserved, were called ‘Embarkation Hards’. According to information displayed on a memorial close to the ‘hards’, the landing craft used in Operation Overlord operated a shuttle service between Torquay and the Normandy beaches. Soldiers of the 4th US Infantry Division, who embarked at Torquay, were amongst the 23000 troops who were landed at Utah Beach in Normandy. Along with them, 1700 tanks, guns, and trucks also arrived on that beach.

The ‘hards’, point of departure for Normandy, are not particularly attractive to look at, but they are an impressive souvenir of what was an important military operation, which in no little way helped to bring about the downfall of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

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