Tyneham: a journey back in time

TYNEHAM, Dorset’s famous ‘ghost village’ close to the coast in Purbeck, has been described as the community that died for D-Day.

In November 1943 notice was given to the village’s 225 residents ordering them to leave within 28 days as the area was needed for forces’ training.

On 17th December the last villagers left believing that one day they would be able to return. It was never to happen.

Today, the village is still part of the Army Ranges but access is allowed most weekends, on public holidays and at various other times.

Tyneham, like its counterpart Imber on Salisbury Plain in neighbouring Wiltshire, is one of the forgotten casualties of World War Two.

It had been a small coastal village in a picturesque location but it was that very location that led to its downfall. It was the perfect training ground for allied troops prior to the D-Day invasion.

The intervening years have taken their toll and today only the pretty church and school house remain intact.

Before the residents left, one left a hand-written note on the door of St Mary’s Church. It read: “Please treat the church and houses with care. We have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”

Today, Tyneham remains part of the Lulworth Ranges, which includes the MoD-owned training area for the army’s Armoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School.

The school has become a kind of museum, and preserved as if the children had just left, although the school had actually closed in 1932, long before the evacuation. DE

* See the excellent website at www.tynehamopc.org.uk