You might have noticed a little change in the calendars this May, rather than May Day being a bank holiday, it has been moved to Friday, 8th May to coincide with the 75th anniversary of V E Day. V E Day, otherwise known as Victory in Europe Day is the day that the second world war ended in Europe, while many of the events that were planned to commemorate this have had to be cancelled and postponed due to social distancing guidelines, that doesn’t mean we can’t spend some time reminiscing about Dorset’s role in WWII.
Like most of the West Country, Dorset played an active role in the WWII providing homes for those evacuated out of the city and also acting as a training ground for troops who needed to gain experience in coastal terrains. One place that was requisitioned for the war effort was the town of Tyneham near Lulworth which is now known as a ‘ghost village.’
Sadly for the paranormal fans among you, you won’t find a village inhabited by ghosts, but you will find a village that is completely empty and only accessible to the public at certain times of the year. We don’t recommend seeking it out until after the lockdown has been officially lifted, but there is no harm in finding out more about it and adding it to your lists of places to visit once this is all over.
Here is the story of Tyneham, Dorset’s ghost town.
The village and just under 8,000 acres of nearby land were requisitioned by the War Office just before Christmas in 1943. The residents at the time were told that this was a temporary measure and that the army needed it to use for training troops and as firing ranges. Overall, around 230 people were displaced after the army took over, with many of them moving into places like Purbeck and Wareham which were close by.
During the final two years of the war, Tyneham was home to a select few military personnel who use the heathlands and chalky landscape around the village to conduct training exercises. After V E Day when the war in Europe was declared over, those that once resided in Tyneham awaited the all clear to return, however, in 1948, the army placed a compulsory purchase order on the land and it has remained in use by the military ever since.
For the past 72 years, Tyneham the ghost villlage has become somewhat of an enigma in the Dorset countryside. The land is littered with scrap from target practice as well as old shells and other military equipment but having been freed from farming and regular human habitation, the local wildlife has thrived making it a great place to spot birds and other uncommon plants and creatures.
Thankfully, the village has been opened on selected days throughout the year since the 1970s and as it has seen little to no development since it was closed in 1943 features the original buildings including the church and the former school which are now both museums.
The village is now only accessible when the Lulworth Ranges are open to the public, so if you missed out on remembering V E Day, make a note to visit Tyneham when we get the all clear.