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Royal Marines amphibious trials base remembers D-Day

World War Two Willys jeep is driven through the dip tank at RM Instow. Picture: Paul Hall
10 May 2019
World War Two vehicles were put through their paces alongside their modern-day equivalents in the build up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Royal Marines from 11 Amphibious Trials and Training Squadron, based at RM Instow, showed how the amphibious craft have advanced since landing on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944.

The north Devon base, an out station of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines (1AGRM), was built in late 1942 as a training and testing facility for troops preparing for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Now, it is responsible for developing new equipment to meet the needs of the Royal Marines.

In a two-mile radius of Instow, there is easy access to sheltered and open water but also five of the seven beach types found on the planer - making it an excellent place to test and develop new kit.

Colonel Chris Haw, commanding officer of 1AGRM, said: "This based was used during World War Two to waterproof and trial tanks and vehicles that would go on to Normandy. It was a centre for innovation then and it continues that today.

"We trial the new equipment coming in and we teach people how to waterproof vehicles. 

"Today was about showing what we do now at Instow but also remember the courage and determination show by our predecessors."

How successful we were depended on the training at Instow, it was most essential for us.”

Clifford Coates, D-Day veteran

D-Day veteran Clifford Coates and the private owners of World War Two vehicles were invited to Instow to meet the squadron and see the facility.

As part of the day, a Willys MB jeep from D-Day and one used by current marines were driven through the base's dip tank - a ramp leading down to one-and-a-half metres of water to simulate leaving a landing craft.

Mr Coates, from Biddeford, served in the Royal Marines during D-Day as a coxswain on one of the landing crafts.

The 95-year-old said: "The build-up to D-Day was all about training, training, training. We trained so much that running on the beaches was like running on a normal road.

"When we set off there were thousands of landing craft. I have never seen so many vessels in my life."

Speaking about the base at Instow, Mr Coates added: "The training at Instow was very important. How successful we were depended on the training here, it was most essential for us."

On June 5, Portsmouth is hosting a commemoration for D-Day with a range of events and ceremonies on Southsea seafront. Thousands of visitors are expected to gather to see the spectacle which includes 300 veterans sailing for France accompanied by a host of Royal Navy ships and a flypast.

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