Imber

Posted: January 9, 2012 in United Kingdom
Tags: , , , ,

Imber is a remote hamlet in Wiltshire that can no longer be found on the map. This is because on 1 November 1943, the villagers were told they had 43 days to evacuate their homes as the area was to be requisitioned by the US military as part of the war effort.

So, people left their homes, their farms and their businesses, taking the things they could with them and selling the things they couldn’t, like their farm animals, for well below their real value. No compensation was ever given. Once the US army packed up shop and left, the villagers had been led to believe that they would be allowed to return to their homes. They never were.

Imber is still being used as a military training ground today and is only open to public access a few days a year. The best way to find out when those days are is from the Forever Imber web site. I headed up there a couple of summers ago with some friends, after reading about it in the book Bollocks to Alton Towers, which made it sound like an interesting place to visit with phrases like “wandering round the village on an August afternoon is a solemn and faintly surreal experience ”. I have to admit, we were a little bit disappointed. Although we were allowed access to the road, the military were still on site and tried their best to keep us out of the buildings. Never being one to do what I’m told, we snuck in anyway, but there wasn’t much to see. The buildings that were accessible had been stripped bare, with shell casings littering the floors and phrases like ‘stolen from the people’ scrawled on the walls.  

Perhaps the best part of the trip was the actual drive into town. Along the road immediately leading to Imber is a tank graveyard, where signs in front of rusting tanks warn any stray members of the public, “danger unexploded military debris, do not leave the carriageway”.

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