Torcross is a village in the South Hams district of Devon in England. It stands at the southern end of Slapton Sands, a narrow strip of land and shingle beach which separates the freshwater lake of Slapton Ley from Start Bay and carries the A379 coastal road north to Dartmouth.
The first mention of Torcross was recorded at the manorial court in the court rolls of 29 March 1602 when it was recorded that a representative of the new village reported that everything was “all well”. In 1854 the coastal road between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth was built passing through Torcross giving a much needed lifeline to the community. In 1858 a coach service started between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge.
In late 1943 Torcross was evacuated, along with many other villages in the South Hams area, to make way for 15,000 allied troops who needed the area to practise for the D-Day landings.
In the early hours of 28 April 1944 a tragic incident happened during Exercise Tiger: nine German torpedo boats (Schnellboote), alerted by heavy radio traffic, intercepted a three-mile-long convoy of vessels travelling from the Isle of Portland to Slapton Sands to undertake landing rehearsals for D Day. Two tank landing ships were sunk in the engagement and 946 American servicemen died. Poor communications led to badly-timed shelling on the beach, killing about 300 more men. Over 1,000 lives were lost over the course of the operation, most of them through US Army friendly fire.
A Sherman amphibious tank and several plaques stand at Torcross car park between Slapton Ley and the beach as memorials to the men who lost their lives. The operation to salvage the tank from the shallow waters of Start Bay was financed by Ken Small, a Torcross hotelier, and was completed in 1984.