THE climax of an ongoing project mapping the history of seven top secret Second World War tanks is rapidly approaching.

Historians and divers at The Isle of Purbeck Sub Aqua Club (IPSAC) have been working on the Valentine 75 project for around two years.

Six weeks before the D-Day landings, wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King George VI and General Dwight D Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, met at Fort Henry, near Studland, to watch a rehearsal of the assault to come.

During this exercise, which was the largest live firing practice of the war and codenamed Operation Smash, a number of 'Valentine' tanks were deployed.

These tanks had been equipped with propellers and canvas skirts to make them amphibious.

However, due to rough seas during the exercise, seven of these tanks sank to the bottom of the sea, with the loss of six men.

The Valentine 75 Project was launched to map the history of these tanks, their crews and the men who lost their lives on April 4, 1944.

With the 75th anniversary of their deaths approaching, preparations by the IPSAC are intensifying.

Valentine 75 project officer Nick Reed said there will be a memorial event at Fort Henry, led by the Royal Dragoon Guards Association, on April 4.

He added: "If the weather is good enough we will also dive down on the day and lay the wreaths."

The IPSAC is working with two other dive clubs and serving members of the Dragoon Guards, currently based at Bovington, in a bid to dive down and place wreaths on each of the seven tank wrecks.

Mr Reed added: "We are also working with the National Trust and we will be putting on an exhibition at the Discovery Centre at Knoll Beach."