Dartmouth is a town that has had close links with the armed forces throughout its long history and right up to modern times. This link can be seen throughout the town and the surrounding area in some of the buildings and landmarks which dominate the landscape. Below we’re going to give you a little insight into some of the top military and naval locations in and around Dartmouth.
Guarding the mouth of the River Dart, Dartmouth Castle is over 600 years old. The oldest parts of castle date from the late 14th century when Richard II ordered the building of defences to protect the important trading port during the Hundred Year War. The defences were strengthened with the building of a new gun tower in the late 15th century; the tower also housed the winding mechanism for a giant chain which spanned the width of the river mouth stopping boats entering the harbour.
The castle has seen further updates throughout the centuries, with a Victorian gun battery added in 1861 and with quick-firing guns installed during both World Wars. The castle is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public where you can find out more about its fascinating history.
Built in the early 16th century, Bayards Cove Fort lies at the southern end of the town’s stone quay, Bayards Cove. With Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle guarding the estuary mouth, the people of Dartmouth decided to build Bayards Cove Fort as a second line of defence should any enemy evade the main defences. The fort, similarly to Dartmouth Castle, is now in the care of English Heritage.
The training of young naval officers has taken place in Dartmouth since 1863, when training took place on two vessels moored in the river, Britannia and Hindostan. In 1902 the foundation stone for a new college, designed by architect Sir George Aston Webb, was laid by King Edward VII and the first cadets entered the college three years later in 1905. The grand Edwardian era red brick building of the world famous Britannia Royal Naval College sits on a hill above the town and overlooks the river, and still trains Naval Officers from around the world. Visitors can find out more about the college on tours which are held on selected dates throughout the year, please click here for further details.
During the Second World War, Slapton Sands beach and much of the surrounding countryside was closed to the public as the area was used by US troops to practise landings and manoeuvres. The beach has a sad history as in 1943 it was used by the allied forces as a rehearsal area for the D-Day Landings. Exercise Tiger or Operation Tiger was an ill-fated exercise which due to a combination of live ammunition, communication problems and poor visibility resulted in the deaths of 749 American servicemen. A Sherman Tank raised from the sea stands as a monument, at nearby Torcross, to those that lost their lives.
Dartmouth War Memorial
Found in the beautiful surrounds of Royal Avenue Gardens, in the heart of the town, is the granite cross of Dartmouth’s War Memorial. Officially unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1921 the memorial bears the names of those who lost their lives during both World Wars as well as conflicts since 1945.
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