Trebah Garden & D-Day: from the shores of paradise to the battlefields of Europe

    From peace to the warfront

    At the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we look back to the fascinating and tragic involvement of Trebah Garden in the largest seaborne invasion in history. Standing on the blissful banks of the Helford River at the foot of Trebah Garden, it’s difficult to imagine that, 80 years ago, quite a different scene unfolded in this quiet corner of Cornwall.

    In 1944, as war raged in Europe, the beach of this humble sub-tropical garden played a vital role in one of the most significant military operations in history; Operation Overlord - the Allied invasion of Normandy, commonly known as D-Day.

    Preparing for D-Day

    Chosen for its seclusion away from Falmouth, preparations began 20 months earlier when thousands of U.S. troops made their way across the Atlantic to live and train in England for a secretive operation.

    Gradually locals began noticing changes to their rural village. Roads in nearby Mawnan Smith were widened, along which soldiers now camped, and a new metalled beach-access road was laid around the headland. On the beach itself the boat house was dynamited, a large jetty was built and flexible concrete ‘chocolate block’ matting was laid to cover the shingle.

    Trebah's critical cole in the Normandy invasion

    At the end of May 1944, ten 150-foot flat-bottomed LST landing craft began being loaded with tanks, guns, transport and some 7500 American troops of the 29th Infantry Division. They embarked from Trebah Beach on 1st June and for 5 days the men traversed horrendous sea conditions before landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, one of the most treacherous of the whole of Operation Overlord, where they suffered grievous casualties in their efforts to liberate Europe. In the 1960s the beach was partially restored by then-garden-owner Donald Healey, though even today reminders of Trebah’s wartime contribution are still very much apparent on the beach.

    Trebah Today

    Today the beautiful valley garden at Trebah and its tranquil beach are a world away from the horrors of D-Day, though the sacrifice of the U.S. soldiers is by no means forgotten. A memorial sits at the bottom of the garden commemorating the courage of these brave young American soldiers.

    Military Day

    This year is the 80th anniversary of D-Day and Trebah’s annual Military Day will be held on Saturday 1st June 2024. All are welcome to join this family day which remembers and honours the men and women of the Armed Forces, both past and present. Organised by the Royal Cornwall Branch of the Parachute Regimental Association, the day includes a display of military vehicles, performances, a short memorial service and a wreath laying. Standard garden entry rates apply with no pre-booking required.

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