Between April 1943 and May 1944, the 79th Armoured Division utilised a number of locations to undertake trials and training of the DD tanks. Trials occurred in Scotland and Wales, and two Top Secret Training Schools, or 'WINGS', were established. 'A' WING for Freshwater Training was at Fritton Lake on the Norfolk / Suffolk Border, whilst 'B' WING (Saltwater Training) was at Stokes Bay Hampshire. Later in May 1944 a further facility for River Crossing was formed at Burton-upon-Stather.
Fritton Lake, owned by The Somerleyton Estate was requisitioned in April 1943. The 2½ mile long lake provided excellent facilities for the elementary phase of training. Security was key to the success of the top secret school: It was surrounded by woodland and was not overlooked by many houses. Two squadrons would train in the relatively calm waters of the lake.
Exercises during the day and night would culminate in assaulting in formation upon a pretend beach complete with smoke screen. Crews would become proficient in descending mock landing craft ramps and practicing the various drills and tactics. A period of two weeks were required at the School. Read more about A Wing here.
Following their training on the calm waters of Fritton, the crews would move down to Stokes Bay, Gosport. Here the crews would undertake swimming at sea as part of a whole squadron. Having loaded onto Landing Craft (Tanks)LCTs, they would launch into the Solent, 1200 yards or more off the coast of the Isle of Wight and land at Osborn Bay. A period of three weeks were required at the School. Read more about B Wing here.
By the end of March 1944 some 1200 men had participated in this training. They were from ten UK, Canadian and US tank formations:
In the lead up to D Day, Military planners assessed the requirement for DDs to assist in other operations in Europe. To this end, a suitable location to undertake
trials and training on a river site similar to those of the Sein and Rhine was sought. Thus in May 1944 a suitable site on the River Trent, at Burton-upon-Stather
was requisitioned. Trials began at a temporary camp, and in July 1944 the Staffordshire Yeomanry undertook elements of their training there.
Crossing rivers involved significantly more tactics and preparation, not least beacuse the current would naturally force the craft down stream. Read more about the River Crossing Wing here.