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Saunton's Place In WWII History

Saunton Golf Club in England was used by the United States Army during World War II as a camping area for the 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion.
Saunton Golf Club in England was used by the United States Army during World War II as a camping area for the 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion.

It is D-Day, and while I am not on the Normandy coast where that landing took place, I am nonetheless getting a very good feel for the anniversary of that epic event and all it did to impact the world. Even though I am playing golf.

That’s because the place at which I am teeing it – the Saunton Golf Club on the North Devon coast in England – has quite a history of its own when it comes to World War II, and the invasion of Europe by Allied forces.


In 1939, the East and West courses at Saunton as well as the clubhouse were requisitioned by the British military, and the county’s Coast Defence Unit stationed there. Mines were buried in the dunes, and machine gun nests built on the higher points of the property, all of which is classic linksland. An American tank outfit came to be based here, and the Allied troops used the vast beaches abutting the sand dunes as a battle training ground in preparation for the D-Day landings.

I thought about all that as I played my rounds that day, when I walked by the ruins of one of the machine gun nests, covered in brambles off the 13th hole of the West Course, and gazed into the dunes, which were not fully rid of mines until the early 1950s, when the military gave the club back to its members.

But the enormity of D-Day and the sacrifices so many made on the French coast 70 years ago didn’t fully come into focus until after my golf was done and I returned to my room at the Saunton Sands Hotel to stare quietly at the massive beach that stretched for miles below my window. I imagined all the training that took place there decades ago. All the practicing and planning.

And then I thought of how those troops then executed the actual invasion with incalculable courage when the big day came.

We still owe them all so much.

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