Imber in Wiltshire: Salisbury Plain village and church access restricted by MoD

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Jan 12 13:23:07 GMT 2018

Imber in Wiltshire: Salisbury Plain Village and Church Access Restricted by MoD

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Salisbury Plain village church access restricted by MoD – 29 June 2017

A Routemaster bus in the deserted village of Imber on Salisbury

Access to a “ghost village” church which was 
taken over by the military in World War Two is to be restricted.
The village of Imber was abandoned in 1943 and 
has been closed to civilians ever since as it is 
sited on the MoD’s training zone on Salisbury Plain.
St Giles Church, the only building left intact in 
Imber, is normally open to the public for two weeks each August.


Journal – 29th August 2017 – Imber bus service makes a return

This year the MoD has reduced it to three days 
due to visitors “attempting to access restricted areas”.

It was just before Christmas 1943 that Imber 
villagers were ordered to pack up and leave to 
provide a training area for American troops 
preparing for the invasion of Europe during World War Two.

They were never allowed to return and the village vanished off the map.

Since then, up to 50 days of public access is granted each year by the MoD.
Imber church

St Giles Church will only be open to the public from 26 to 28 August

But this year it has been “significantly 
reduced”, according to Neil Skelton, custodian of 
the church, because visitors have been 
“trespassing in the restricted areas” of the deserted village.
“Last August, we had probably around 4,000 to 
5,000 people over the two weeks and at Easter it was manic,” he said.
“It’s the sheer numbers, we’re attracting so many 
people but if you reduce the number of days, 
you’ll be squeezing more people in to fewer days.”

‘Public in danger’

It is feared people are putting their lives at 
risk by trespassing in to areas where there could be “unexploded ordnance”.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman who wished to 
remain anonymous said keeping visitors to Imber 
village safe was a “top priority”.
He said: “Unfortunately we have received numerous 
reports of members of the public placing 
themselves and others in danger during previous 
open days by attempting to access restricted areas.
“Following these reports a risk assessment was 
carried out which resulted in the decision to 
reduce public access periods to the village.”



Trilling 10 January 2018

The single-lane road cuts through an almost empty 
grassland plateau. Every so often there are signs 
warning drivers not to wander, at risk of death 
from unexploded bombs. A burned-out tank 
punctuates the horizon, its gun raised in salute. 
The road continues like this for a good twenty 
minutes before reaching a small car park outside 
a village church. On the morning of New Year’s 
Day the car park was almost full. People were 
getting out of their cars and making their way up 
the hill to the church: families with children 
and elderly relatives, a dog-walker in a 
camouflage anorak, a young couple in quilted jackets and Union Jack wellies.

Several times a year, the church at Imber, a 
ghost village on Salisbury Plain, is opened to 
the public. In 1943 the Ministry of Defence, 
which owns much of the surrounding area, evicted 
Imber’s 150 or so residents so that the village 
could be used to train American troops preparing 
for the D-Day landings. The villagers thought 
they would be allowed back when the war ended, 
but the MoD kept them out, instead using Imber to 
train successive generations of soldiers in urban 
combat. Most of the original houses have been 
demolished and replaced with a replica of a 1980s 
Belfast housing estate. More recently, soldiers 
have been trained here before deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The church, built in the 14th and 15th centuries 
(the earliest recorded mention of a settlement at 
Imber is in the 10th century) has been preserved, 
its yard surrounded by a chain-link fence with 
signs that tell visitors not to stray out, and 
soldiers not to stray in. On 1 January there was 
the atmosphere of a fête inside. Tables with 
gingham cloths were set out for guests; a stall 
offered mulled wine and orange squash. Display 
boards told the history of the village, alongside 
black and white photos of thatched cottages. The 
visitors peered at the boards, or sat and chatted 
quietly. A set of 15th-century frescoes have been 
removed to a safer location, but I could make out 
what looks like a horned figure traced in red 
pigment where a painting of the Seven Deadly Sins once sat.

At first, nobody was allowed to visit Imber at 
all, but in January 1961 two thousand protesters 
forced their way past the security checkpoints 
that surround the MoD training ground, to demand 
that the community be allowed back. Today, the 
MoD permits access for up to 50 days a year, 
although this is often curtailed at short notice. 
‘We were supposed to open for three weeks in 
summer, but they only let us open for three 
days,’ the woman pouring drinks said.

Village that Died for England, 
Wright explores Tyneham in Dorset, another 
settlement that was forced to make way for the 
war effort. Once abandoned, Tyneham was ‘reborn’ 
in media coverage ‘as a perfect English village 
of the mind’, with patriotic villagers who 
dutifully left their homes when the hour came; a 
fantasy of England as rural, pre-industrial, 
white, enduring. A number of Tyneham’s buildings 
have been meticulously restored and the village 
has been used as a film set. Imber is too 
diminished by use for that. Looking downhill from 
the church, you can see the ‘Belfast’ houses. 
They are made of brick, and have sloping metal 
roofs, but there are no windows, and scorch marks 
line the walls. As one version of England is 
briefly revived inside the church, another carries on outside.

In the churchyard, some gravestones are clearly 
postwar. They are memorials for former villagers 
– the Imber ‘diaspora’, as a local newspaper 
article puts it – who died in the 1970s and 
1980s. Many of the older stones are completely 
overgrown, covered by clumps of uncut grass, and 
starting to look like miniature Stone Age barrows 
– remnants of another culture that had its own 
ways of imagining the eternal, to which England now lays claim.

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 From South America, where payment must be made with subtlety, the 
Bormann organization has made a substantial contribution. It has 
drawn many of the brightest Jewish businessmen into a participatory 
role in the development of many of its corporations, and many of 
these Jews share their prosperity most generously with Israel. If 
their proposals are sound, they are even provided with a specially 
dispensed venture capital fund. I spoke with one Jewish businessmen 
in Hartford, Connecticut. He had arrived there quite unknown several 
years before our conversation, but with Bormann money as his 
leverage. Today he is more than a millionaire, a quiet leader in the 
community with a certain share of his profits earmarked as always for 
his venture capital benefactors. This has taken place in many other 
instances across America and demonstrates how Bormann's people 
operate in the contemporary commercial world, in contrast to the 
fanciful nonsense with which Nazis are described in so much "literature."

So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish participation in Bormann 
companies that when Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv 
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the Jewish and German 
communities of Buenos Aires. Jewish leaders informed the Israeli 
authorities in no uncertain terms that this must never happen again 
because a repetition would permanently rupture relations with the 
Germans of Latin America, as well as with the Bormann organization, 
and cut off the flow of Jewish money to Israel. It never happened 
again, and the pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of 
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an Argentinian safe haven, 
protected by the most efficient German infrastructure in history as 
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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