The Village That Died For D-Day


Space for greenhouse

This morning, Aaron and Sean cleared space for the anticipated greenhouse. Holly and Bay trees were cut back and Jackie’s old work corner dismantled.

Jackie contemplating space for greenhouse

The sun danced over Jackie’s head as she contemplated the opening.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Tyneham in Dorset and back.

Now uninhabited for the last 73 years, Tyneham was a thriving village from a previous age, until the villagers were ordered to leave their homes as part of the war effort in 1943. They were never allowed back. Today the remnants of this community were swarming with visitors.

Tyneham Century of Change

The story of its century of change is fixed to a wall near the telephone box. All will become clear when this photograph is enlarged.

Tyneham Village 1

The Tyneham Phone Box story

The replaced telephone box bears it own story,

Post Office

as does the shell of the Post Office.

Tyneham Village 3

Most of the buildings are now ruined husks


revealing such as fireplaces,

Window frames

Through a window

and vacant windows fitted with stout wooden supports.

Tyneham Village 2

Exceptions are the school and the church. Jackie waits for me in the shadows outside

Schoolroom 1

the schoolroom where there is a permanent exhibition. Here are the children’s desks.

Teacher's desk 1Teacher's desk 2

The teacher’s faces down the classroom. Note the cane.

Sovereigns on wall

Queen Victoria and King George V hang on the wall.

School photo 1912

The school photograph from 1912 features, third from right on the front row, Fred Knight.

Coat hangers 1Coat hook names 2

We met a man who had worked with this former pupil some twenty years ago. Apparently, after Fred’s wife died, he often returned to the village to sit and think. In the second of these rows of coat hooks, young Frederick’s coat hanger is clearly labelled.

Churchyard from schoolroom

Did this lad and his classmates gaze through the schoolroom window and contemplate where they may be laid to rest one day? If so, this was not to be.

Grant grave

One gentleman who had grown up in Tyneham did come back to be buried there in 2010, to be joined by his wife five years later.

Hillside beyond church

Man and dog outside church

Beyond the churchyard, as from anywhere else in the village, can be seen the Purbeck Hills.

Welcome to Tyneham Church

The Century of Change board pictured above tells us that it is Evelyn Bond who pinned the notice to the church door on the day the village died.

Piscina 2

Priests first washed their hands in the piscina behind the font more than 700 years ago.

Dog tethered

With their own little dog straining at the leash, a couple ascended the slope beyond this tethered collie


which was unperturbed as they loomed into silhouette.

Military Firing Range

Beyond the Military Firing Range on Povington Hill

Povington Hill view 1Povington Hill view 2Povington Hill view 3Povington Hillk view 4

we can see how close the sea is to the low-lying village. If you examine these pictures carefully, you should be able to distinguish between hay bales and sheep in the fields.

As we approached Wareham on our return journey it became apparent that  the road home was very busy. There was therefore only one course of action.

Rajpoot and King's Arms

We turned off into this very attractive town and sought out The Rajpoot Indian restaurant. It was not yet open, so we dropped intoThe King’s Arms next door for drinks. The restaurant itself was first class. I enjoyed king prawn naga, as Jackie did her chicken shashlick. We shared the chef’s secret spice rice, an egg paratha, and an onion bahji. We drank small bottles of Kingfisher.


71 responses to “The Village That Died For D-Day”

  1. The bittersweet, mixed-up emotions provoked by such places as Tyneham— where the lives of ordinary citizens were so heavily touched by the necessities of the collective, continuous battle of governments round good and evil—it is such a conundrum, and always invites our questions and our awe. As we in the US remember September 11, 20001 today, I find myself weary of it all, yet knowing we still must look at it, and judge it for what it was, and is.

    • As usual, a finely written comment.
      Tyneham, along with other war-deserted villages across the country leaves a great deal of bitter resentment in that dwindling number of survivors who were forced out, and in their families who’ve had to live under the shadow of parents/relatives being uprooted. The issue isn’t that it happened, or that it could do so in a so-called civilized country, but that the government/military have been so adamant about not letting them back, apparently content to drag their heels until the residents died off and, with them, the moral duty to offer them restitution. I gather in most cases the villagers were promised the certainty of returning after the war, a promise presumably made to secure their agreement, with no intention of its ever being honoured*. It’s a scandal, frankly. There are several low-level campaigns around, trying to achieve some measure of justice for those who did [rather more than] their bit for the war effort.
      *spelt with a ‘u’, despite the spell-checker trying to persuade me otherwise 🙂

      • I sympathize with those campaigns for justice and agree…In their zeal for “the big picture.” gpvernments often conveniently forget promises made to ordinary people. It is truly a shame that the promise of return after the war was not honoured. Is Tyneham still being used as a military installation? Why? Time heals all wounds, perhaps, but also, inevitably, will wound all heels.

  2. How sad to see this deserted village, but good to see remnants of ages past. Those labelled coat hooks remind me of my first day at school.
    Looks like a very attractive town you dined in.

  3. This is really sad and an injustice. It’s good people can tour it, so that it won’t be forgotten. Pictures of the countryside around show how beautiful it is. I’m glad you had a nice drink and a good meal at the end of it.

  4. It feels so symbolic to read this post today when my thoughts are going back 15 years to the tragic events. Thank you for sharing this piece of history, Derrick, and for your beautiful photographs.

  5. What a fascinating time capsule of a place. It’s sad that the inhabitants were never able to return, but in a way it means the village continues today as a kind of poignant memorial to all those who sacrificed in the terrible but necessary struggle against Nazism.

  6. What a fascinating post although I am shocked to note that even in civilised countries you can be expropriated without any compensation. I can’t believe that none of the villagers have descendants who would have been able to claim their right. At the least they could use it as a tourist space for compensation their ancestors were entitled to. It’s sad really to see such abuse of basic rights in a country where it is not supposed to happen.
    Despite it all you’ve taken some really wonderful photographs that show the beauty of the place and instill peace in it.
    I love the restaurant and the whereabouts of the town where you dined.
    While looking at the photographs and the one of the little town where you dined, I was thinking you would probably like the medieval town of Yvoire a lot. It is in France on lake Leman, not far from Geneva. I am sure you would take some wonderful photographs there.

    • You may have to be organized about fixing a visit. Derrick may know more, but I think access is still restricted (maybe more to prevent squatters, from those sympathetic to the evicted residents, and the ensuing unwelcome headlines, than for any military safety reasons. Cynical? Moi?!) Derrick’s visit-dates co-incided with a nationwide Open Heritage Weekend which, as well as offering free access to many sites one usually pays to enter, also opens sites normally private/closed, for whose permanent opening funding can’t be found. Tyneham may be one of these.

      • Thank you, Paul … I will certainly do my research to see if I can find a time for a visit. Planning is my middle name, to my husband’s well disguised frustration, and living abroad means I have to make best use of my time when I’m in Britain so it would be jolly frustrating to turn up and find the place locked!

  7. I spent a day at Tyneham about 5 years ago. Strangely I felt comforted by this village as a memorial, knowing that the people were valued by us and would not be forgotten. All those little people who sacrificed for the greater good were all big people to many.

  8. Fantastic historical reading Derrick, I had never heard of deserted villages for the war effort, fascinating reading and great to see it was refurbished to its original, makes me wonder just how many other villages in England were appropriated for war work.

  9. A fascinating day trip. I love the photos of the ruins. Tyneham must have been a prosperous village before 1943. Why didn’t they ever resettle it?

    The countryside with its green fields, sheep and hay bales and view of the sea is beautiful.

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