Duplex Drive Tank Training Wing, Freshwater (Fritton)

Fritton Decoy, a 2.5 mile long lake on the Norfolk / Suffolk border, was requisitioned by the 79th Armoured Division in May 1943 for the training of the crews who would operate the Duplex Drive (DD) Tanks on D-Day.

The DD tanks were conventional Valentine and Sherman Tanks that were fitted with canvas screens and propellers. The screen was supported by air-filled pillars and struts as well as a series of tubular frames. When inflated, the equipment enabled the tank to displace more than its own weight in water, thus making the tank buoyant. When at sea, only the top 3 feet of screen could be seen, concealing the tank beneath the waves. The DDs were part of “The Funnies”, which were developed to combat the various German defences and obstacles.

Fritton Lake was known as A Wing – Freshwater Wing. Crews attended a 2 week course, where they trained on Valentine DDs. They learnt waterproofing, maintenance, navigation, launching and landing. In addition, they learnt to escape from a submerged tank: The cut down Hulls of a Valentine and Sherman were used.

Having completed their Elementary Training, crews would undertake a second phase of training (Saltwater training) at Stokes Bay, Gosport, Hampshire. This site (B Wing) was used between September 1943 and May 1944 – see separate listing.

Between June 1943 and May 1944 over 1200 men trained on DD tanks, from the 10 Regiments and Batalions that would ultimately use them on D-Day.

Fritton remained a military location after D-Day, becoming part of the Assault Training and Development Centre (ATDC), and later part of SADE (Specialised Armour Development Establishment). During this time personnel experimented with methods of crossing rivers and overcoming soft boggy ground.

AddressChurch Lane, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR31 9HA, UK
CountyNorfolk
Location typeTroop Camp
AccessPrivate
Site Ownership and Access InformationThe Lake forms part of the Somerleyton Estate. The northern shore is managed as a Country Park, with boating and facilities adjacent. However much of the remainder of the Estate is managed for conservation, farming, forestry or sport and access is not permitted. There are a number of public rights of way that cross the Estate, but not in the vicinity of the training areas.
Contact detailsFor more information on the history of this site, contact Stuart Burgess: Stuart@duplexdrivetanks.co.uk.

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