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Photographer's Note

This is really for Kasia, who asked to see more old photographs. But it's time to fess up: this image isn't particularly old, it's just of a quite venerable subject. This is a telephone box, circa 1943, in the abandoned village of Tyneham, and a memorial to how the village was when it was forcibly evacuated.

The village and 7,500 acres of surrounding heathland and chalk downland around the Purbeck Hills, were commandeered just before Christmas 1943 by the then War Office (now MoD) for use as firing ranges for training troops. 252 people were displaced, the last person leaving a poignant notice on the church door:


"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."

It has not been treated kindly. The measure was supposed to be temporary for the duration of World War II, but in 1948 the Army placed a compulsory purchase order on the land and it has remained in use for military training and target practice ever since. The cottages are all now roofless shells, and the residents have never been allowed to return. Though littered with scrap used as targets, and subject to regular shelling, the land has become a haven for wildlife as it has been free from farming and development. In 1975, after complaints from tourists and locals, the Ministry of Defence began opening the village and footpaths across the ranges at weekends and throughout August. Practically all of the village buildings have fallen into disrepair and have been damaged by shelling and in 1967 the then Ministry of Works pulled down the Elizabethan manor house, though the church and schoolhouse remain intact.

To visit the place now is to enter a sad and lost little world. It will never be inhabited again.

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Additional Photos by Will Perrett (willperrett) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 549 W: 277 N: 1238] (6224)
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