AN exhibition focusing on the role Studland Bay played in both world wars opens at the weekend.

The National Trust has joined forces with local organisations and residents to organise the event at the Discovery Centre, Knoll Beach, Studland.

With the 75th anniversary of D-Day fast approaching, part of the exhibition will highlight the role Studland played in the run-up to the Normandy landings.

The exhibition has been organised in partnership with the Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre, and the Isle of Purbeck Sub-Aqua Club (IPSAC).

Recently, the IPSAC and National Trust marked the 75th anniversary of Operation Smash, which was the largest live-fire exercise of World War II and proved a major dress rehearsal for the D-Day landings.

Last month the 75th anniversary of Operation Smash was marked by memorials at sea and at Fort Henry, Studland.

Six men died in the exercise, held off the Studland coast, while manning top secret amphibious Duplex Drive Valentine tanks.

These tanks were designed to be 'floating' units, able to leave their landing ships further from shore compared to other tanks.

As the exercise unfolded on April 4, 1944, Prime Minister Winston Church, King George VI and General Dwight D. Eisenhower – Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces – looked on from Fort Henry.

Three-quarters-of-a-century later, more than 50 people, including family members of the men that died, regimental representatives and ex-regimental members, gathered at the same spot for a service of remembrance.

Earlier that day serving members of the Royal Dragoon Guards and representatives of the Valentine 75 Project took a vessel out to sea and laid two wreaths on the water at one of the tank wreck sites.

On the latest exhibition, a National Trust spokesman said: "The exhibition also looks at Purbeck's role in the development of radar during the Second World War and the loss of First World War minesweeper HMS Arfon, whose wreck lies off the Purbeck coast."

In addition, a new solar-powered sound post can be found beside the South West Coast Path, between Fort Henry and the Bankes Arms.

"The post enables listeners to hear the childhood memories of local residents Terry Meates and Sally Wright," said the spokesman. "Terry describes how thick palls of smoke rose over Studland during tests of top secret preparations for a feared German invasion.

"Sally recalls a Luftwaffe aircraft narrowly missing her family home before crashing nearby."

The Bankes family owned most of Studland, along with Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacy near Wimborne, until the estate was donated to the National Trust in 1982.

The exhibition runs from Saturday, May 4, up until Sunday, May 26.