The Ghost of Tyneham Village

Tyneham village is (or was) a small village deep in the Dorset Purbecks. The people there eked out an existence living off the land and fishing from the nearby Worbarrow Bay. It was a typical early-mid 20th century rural community. No doubt the chocolate box exterior his veins of squalor and poverty, but generally the people loved their village and were devoted to it.

Along came World War 2.

Tyneham village has two peculiarities. The first is that it lies in the middle of a very large army firing range, the second is that Worbarrow bay has a passing resemblance to a Normandy beach.

Needs do as needs must.

The people were asked to leave so the army could practice for D-Day. They were promised they would be able to return after the war. In 1943 they were given one month to leave. Most of the folk were simple and poor tied farm workers . They rented their homes. Although they may well have lived there for generations the only compensation they received was for the value of the vegetables growing in their gardens.

That is not a joke.

I will repeat it in case you mis-understood.

The only compensation they (ever) received, for losing their homes and way of life, was for the value of the vegetables in their gardens when they were requested to leave.

But these were patriotic people who were more than willing to do their part in the sure knowledge that the Great, Powerful and Extremely Well Fed would honour their word and allow them to return at the end of the war.

But politicians had other ideas and they were not going to let a group of naive, honest and patriotic Englishmen get in their way. The village remained closed. A campaign in the 1970's to have the village rightfully returned to its original inhabitants was stone walled by successive governments ( and investigated by MI5). Eventually the campaign failed.

Today Tyneham village still remains a ghost town. At weekends the remains are open to the public where they can see the ruins, frozen in time. They can visit the restored school house or church but the village remains firmly in the grip of the MOD. There are no plans to honour the 1943 promise anytime soon.

Of course, the longer the MOD leaves it, the less they have to worry about. The displaced villagers now, at least, have the right to be buried in the churchyard. But that is all. Soon there will be no-one left that has a direct link to the village and the MOD's worries will be over.

Nobody is more patriotic or supporting of the Army's need to have adaquate training areas than BilloTheWisp. But I fear we lose something fundamental from our democracy when promises to our own patriotic and hard working people are broken so brazenly for so many years. Especially when the breach is for little more than a convenience of access.

Finally I would also suggest that such a governmental transgression against ordinary people would have been corrected long-long ago in Scotland or Wales. Only in the non country of England where working people like those from Tyneham are held in such contempt by the Rich Arrogant and Extremely Well Fed would this travesty have been allowed to cast its shadow for so many decades.

If you come and visit Dorset try and visit the Ghost Village of Tyneham. It is open most weekends.

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