A CEREMONY will be taking place on Portland to honour the 80th anniversary of a Second World War operation that went horribly wrong.

In April 1944, allied forces gathered along the south coast for a ‘dress rehearsal’ of D-Day to prepare soldiers and sailors for the rigours of the Normandy landings.

Tragically, many lost their lives during Exercise Tiger which was predominantly taking place on Slapton Sands in Devon; however, two Landing Ship Tanks (LST) were sunk off Portland Bill by German motor torpedo boats.

The exercise is often forgotten in the lead up to the D-Day anniversary - but the Portland D-Day Museum, along with the Bournemouth, Poole and District branch of the Royal Tank Regiment Association and Portland Town Council will be marking the date this year.

Tony Hart, a former tank commander and secretary of the tank association branch closest to Weymouth and Portland, said: “With Exercise Tiger, everything is focused on Slapton Sands, were many were killed by friendly fire on the beach due to a mix up with times.

“The second event was the landing ships that were torpedoed off Portland. Most of the bodies were recovered from Portland and it is a case of highlighting the Dorset connection.

“The reason we are involved is that a lot of our branch members live in Weymouth, and they join our branch as we are the closest one."

Large numbers of bodies were washed up on Chesil Beach and at Chesil Cove, and then initially placed in the vast network of tunnels at Castletown.

From Castletown the bodies were taken for burial at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, and after the war many were repatriated to the US or moved to the US Cemetery in Cambridge.

To cover up the disaster the dead were included in the general list of D Day casualties with no mention of how they died. 

Tony added: “Most of the ships set off from Portsmouth and they wanted to give the troops as much realistic practice as they could.

“The route was the same length as the crossing to France and they were fully loaded with tanks – it was a dress rehearsal – there were mistakes though.

“The U-boats left Cherbourg and the Germans weren't spotted, and a lot of the American soldiers were not shown how to use the lifeboats.”

The service, which includes laying of wreaths, will be held at 3pm on Friday, April 26 at the US D Day Memorial at Victoria Gardens, Portland.