Residents of village of Tyneham had to leave homes for Allied troops in the Second World War


Six days before Christmas in 1943, the residents of a picturesque Dorset village made a hefty sacrifice for the good of the nation.

The proud tenants of Tyneham, near the beautiful Lulworth Cove, gave up their homes for Allied forces who needed space to practise their manoeuvres ahead of the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy in the Second World War.

In a spirit of resigned patriotism, they told officials in a letter pinned to the church door that they had given up homes lived in for ‘generations’ to ‘help win the war to keep men free’.

Despite defiantly adding that they would ‘return one day’ and being promised the same by the Government, the 225 villagers were never able to go back because their homes were forcibly purchased by the Ministry of Defence and the site became part of a firing range.

Tyneham, which features in tonight’s episode of Buildings that Fought Hitler on TV channel Yesterday, became known as the ‘village that died for England’.

In a compromise move, villagers were allowed to return to be buried in the churchyard if they had lived there before the evacuation. The last such person was Dorothy Grace Grant, who passed away in 2015.

One of the few buildings which is not now a ruin is the village church, which re-opened in 1973. The old school now stands as a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the area.

Tonight’s programme hears from historians who shed light on Tyneham’s wartime status as a hub for American troops who went on to famously land on Omaha beach as part of the crucial Normandy landings.

Known officially as Operation Overlord, the invasion saw 156,000 Allied troops land in Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944.

The assault, which was the largest amphibious invasion in history, proved a pivotal turning point in the war by beginning the liberation of France and laying the foundations for Allied victory on the Western Front.

Six days before Christmas in 1943, the residents of a picturesque Dorset village made a hefty sacrifice for the good of the nation. The proud tenants of Tyneham, near the beautiful Lulworth Cove, gave up their homes for Allied forces who needed space to practise their manoeuvres ahead of the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy in the Second World War

Historian Allan Wood said in Yesterday’s programme: ‘Tyneham became the US Army combat training area. Where the American infantry would have needed to come and use their 50. Calibre machine guns.

‘Their bazookers. Their anti-tank weapons. All the kit that an infantry division had to fight. ‘

Other villages which were also taken over include Stanford in Norfolk and the Wiltshire village of Imber.

Professor Juliette Pattinson said: ‘Just before Christmas 1943, Tyneham was requisitioned by the state and used as firing range for troops preparing to invade the Normandy beaches.

‘The villagers that left, about 200 of them, thought it was just a temporary removal. But actually the villagers never returned to their community because the government put a compulsory purchase order.’

The programme tells how Tyneham was owned by the Bond family, with its villagers their tenants. Whilst the family were paid £30,000 for the land, the residents were only given compensation for the vegetables they had planted in their gardens.

Sunday school teacher Helen Taylor was the resident who pinned the note to the church door. It read: ‘Please treat the church and houses with care.

One of the few buildings which is not now a ruin is the village church, which re-opened in 1973. The old school now stands as a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the area

One of the few buildings which is not now a ruin is the village church, which re-opened in 1973. The old school now stands as a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the area

In a spirit of resigned patriotism, they told officials in a letter pinned to the church door that they had given up homes lived in for 'generations' to 'help win the war to keep men free'

In a spirit of resigned patriotism, they told officials in a letter pinned to the church door that they had given up homes lived in for ‘generations’ to ‘help win the war to keep men free’

Sunday school teacher Helen Taylor was the resident who pinned the note to the church door

Sunday school teacher Helen Taylor was the resident who pinned the note to the church door

The village was once a thriving community but its residents had to leave their homes for the good of the war effort

The village was once a thriving community but its residents had to leave their homes for the good of the war effort

‘We have given up our homes where many of us have lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free.

‘We will return one day and thank you for keeping the village kindly.’

Speaking fifty years later, she said: ‘We went with goodwill, thinking we were doing our share to help with the war.’

Mr Wood said Tyneham and its surrounding area became a ‘hive of activity’ in which there was ‘no place’ for the village because of the constant danger the residents would have faced.

The American troops who trained there ended up departing from the nearby Portland and Weymouth.

Mr Wood added: ‘I think there was probably in excess of 800 vessels moored at Weymouth harbour.

‘They landed at what many know as Omaha which proved to be the toughest beach of all on D-Day. Estimates are that 3,000 were killed and as many as 8,000 casualties.’

Even though the villagers were unable to return, the MOD was put under pressure to restore Tyneham and free it of unexploded shells so that it could be visited.

The original telephone box in Tyneham has been preserved for visitors who can tour the site on weekends - when the firing range which it sits in is not in use

The original telephone box in Tyneham has been preserved for visitors who can tour the site on weekends – when the firing range which it sits in is not in use

Historian Allan Wood said in Yesterday's programme: 'Tyneham became the US Army combat training area. Where the American infantry would have needed to come and use their 50. Calibre machine guns

Historian Allan Wood said in Yesterday’s programme: ‘Tyneham became the US Army combat training area. Where the American infantry would have needed to come and use their 50. Calibre machine guns

Plaques fitted to the ruins of Tyneham tell the stories of some of the people who once lived in the small village

Plaques fitted to the ruins of Tyneham tell the stories of some of the people who once lived in the small village

The programme tells how Tyneham was owned by the Bond family, with its villagers their tenants. Whilst the family were paid £30,000 for the land, the residents were only given compensation for the vegetables they had planted in their gardens. Pictured: The manor house lived in by the Bonds. It no longer stands

The programme tells how Tyneham was owned by the Bond family, with its villagers their tenants. Whilst the family were paid £30,000 for the land, the residents were only given compensation for the vegetables they had planted in their gardens. Pictured: The manor house lived in by the Bonds. It no longer stands

The MoD gradually made the ruins accessible at weekends when there is no military training

The MoD gradually made the ruins accessible at weekends when there is no military training

And in 1973, former villagers calling themselves the 1943 Committee cut through barbed wire and re-opened the old post office for ten minutes until they were stopped by wardens.

That year, a report handed to the Government had recommended that 31,000 acres of land across the country – including Tynham – which had been taken over by the MOD be handed back to the nation.

Resident John Gould wrote to the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1974, urging him to hand it back to the people.

‘Tyneham to me is the most beautiful place in the world and I want to give the rest of my life and energy to its restoration … Most of all, I want to go home,’ he wrote.

The MoD gradually made the ruins accessible at weekends when there is no military training and the church was re-opened in 1973, hosting its first service for 36 years in 1979.

The school – which shut in 1932 before the evacuation – now stands as a museum for history buffs.

The former village forms a small part of the Royal Armoured Corps’ gunnery range.

The church, pictured from above, was re-opened in 1973, hosting its first service for 36 years in 1979

The church, pictured from above, was re-opened in 1973, hosting its first service for 36 years in 1979

The former village forms a small part of the Royal Armoured Corps' gunnery range. Pictured: The former village in UKTV's programme

The former village forms a small part of the Royal Armoured Corps’ gunnery range. Pictured: The former village in UKTV’s programme

The village buildings have been left to decay and fall apart, with some even being hit by stray tank shells

The village buildings have been left to decay and fall apart, with some even being hit by stray tank shells

What was the town's water supply bears the date of its construction above a single tap and stone basin

What was the town’s water supply bears the date of its construction above a single tap and stone basin

With the nationwide lockdown having now lifted, visitors are now able to return to the ruins on selected days each month.

Arthur Grant – the last male Tyneham resident to be buried in the churchyard, in 2010 – recalled in a 2004 interview with the Daily Mail: ‘I had a happy childhood. We were proud of Tyneham.

‘It was a close-knit community; we helped one another.’

Mr Grant was away at sea in the Royal Navy when his parents were forced to leave the village.

He said: ‘My parents referred to Tyneham as “home”. There was always talk of happy times they had had there.

‘Yes, they did feel cheated out of their home. They felt that a promise had been made and never fulfilled. After the war I would have liked to have gone back to live there.

In 1973, former villagers calling themselves the 1943 Committee cut through barbed wire and re-opened the old post office for ten minutes until they were stopped by wardens

In 1973, former villagers calling themselves the 1943 Committee cut through barbed wire and re-opened the old post office for ten minutes until they were stopped by wardens

‘Not now. In a way I’m glad it is preserved as it is, a safe haven from developers’.

Historian James Holland said: ‘Big sacrifices were made in the second world war by civilians in so many different ways.

‘We tend to just think of bombing and the Blitz and people being blown out of their houses and stuff.

‘But there were also these requisitions of entire communities. Which I think is remarkable and has to a large extent sort of been forgotten.

Buildings That Fought Hitler airs tonight at 9pm on UKTV’s Yesterday.

D-Day: Huge invasion of Europe described by Churchill as the ‘most complicated and difficult’ military operation in world history

Operation Overlord saw some 156,000 Allied troops landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

It is thought as many as 4,400 were killed in an operation Winston Churchill described as ‘undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place’.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6.30am.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. 

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. 

US Army troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Normandy's 'Omaha' Beach on D-Day in Colleville Sur-Mer, France June 6 1944. As infantry disembarked from the landing craft, they often found themselves on sandbars 50 to 100 yards away from the beach. To reach the beach they had to wade through water sometimes neck deep

US Army troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Normandy’s ‘Omaha’ Beach on D-Day in Colleville Sur-Mer, France June 6 1944. As infantry disembarked from the landing craft, they often found themselves on sandbars 50 to 100 yards away from the beach. To reach the beach they had to wade through water sometimes neck deep

US Army troops and crewmen aboard a Coast Guard manned LCVP approach a beach on D-Day. After the initial landing soldiers found the original plan was in tatters, with so many units mis-landed, disorganized and scattered. Most commanders had fallen or were absent, and there were few ways to communicate

US Army troops and crewmen aboard a Coast Guard manned LCVP approach a beach on D-Day. After the initial landing soldiers found the original plan was in tatters, with so many units mis-landed, disorganized and scattered. Most commanders had fallen or were absent, and there were few ways to communicate

A LCVP landing craft from the U.S. Coast Guard attack transport USS Samuel Chase approaches Omaha Beach. The objective was for the beach defences to be cleared within two hours of the initial landing. But stubborn German defence delayed efforts to take the beach and led to significant delays

A LCVP landing craft from the U.S. Coast Guard attack transport USS Samuel Chase approaches Omaha Beach. The objective was for the beach defences to be cleared within two hours of the initial landing. But stubborn German defence delayed efforts to take the beach and led to significant delays 

An LCM landing craft manned by the U.S. Coast Guard, evacuating U.S. casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment. An accurate figure for casualties incurred by V Corps at Omaha on 6 June is not known; sources vary between 2,000 and over 5,000 killed, wounded, and missing

An LCM landing craft manned by the U.S. Coast Guard, evacuating U.S. casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment. An accurate figure for casualties incurred by V Corps at Omaha on 6 June is not known; sources vary between 2,000 and over 5,000 killed, wounded, and missing

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved.

The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The assault was chaotic with boats arriving at the wrong point and others getting into difficulties in the water.

Destruction in the northern French town of Carentan after the invasion in June 1944

Destruction in the northern French town of Carentan after the invasion in June 1944

Forward 14/45 guns of the US Navy battleship USS Nevada fire on positions ashore during the D-Day landings on Utah Beach. The only artillery support for the troops making these tentative advances was from the navy. Finding targets difficult to spot, and in fear of hitting their own troops, the big guns of the battleships and cruisers concentrated fire on the flanks of the beaches

Forward 14/45 guns of the US Navy battleship USS Nevada fire on positions ashore during the D-Day landings on Utah Beach. The only artillery support for the troops making these tentative advances was from the navy. Finding targets difficult to spot, and in fear of hitting their own troops, the big guns of the battleships and cruisers concentrated fire on the flanks of the beaches

The US Navy minesweeper USS Tide sinks after striking a mine, while its crew are assisted by patrol torpedo boat PT-509 and minesweeper USS Pheasant. When another ship attempted to tow the damaged ship to the beach, the strain broke her in two and she sank only minutes after the last survivors had been taken off

The US Navy minesweeper USS Tide sinks after striking a mine, while its crew are assisted by patrol torpedo boat PT-509 and minesweeper USS Pheasant. When another ship attempted to tow the damaged ship to the beach, the strain broke her in two and she sank only minutes after the last survivors had been taken off

A US Army medic moves along a narrow strip of Omaha Beach administering first aid to men wounded in the Normandy landing on D-Day in Collville Sur-Mer. On D-Day, dozens of medics went into battle on the beaches of Normandy, usually without a weapon. Not only did the number of wounded exceed expectations, but the means to evacuate them did not exist

A US Army medic moves along a narrow strip of Omaha Beach administering first aid to men wounded in the Normandy landing on D-Day in Collville Sur-Mer. On D-Day, dozens of medics went into battle on the beaches of Normandy, usually without a weapon. Not only did the number of wounded exceed expectations, but the means to evacuate them did not exist

Troops managed only to gain a small foothold on the beach – but they built on their initial breakthrough in the coming days and a harbor was opened at Omaha.

They met strong resistance from the German forces who were stationed at strongpoints along the coastline.

Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed, including 6,603 American, of which 2,499 were fatal.

Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed – and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces’ favour.

The first wave of troops from the US Army takes cover under the fire of Nazi guns in 1944

The first wave of troops from the US Army takes cover under the fire of Nazi guns in 1944

Canadian soldiers study a German plan of the beach during D-Day landing operations in Normandy. Once the beachhead had been secured, Omaha became the location of one of the two Mulberry harbors, prefabricated artificial harbors towed in pieces across the English Channel and assembled just off shore

Canadian soldiers study a German plan of the beach during D-Day landing operations in Normandy. Once the beachhead had been secured, Omaha became the location of one of the two Mulberry harbors, prefabricated artificial harbors towed in pieces across the English Channel and assembled just off shore

US Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings at Pointe du Hoc. At the end of the two-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225 or more was reduced to about 90 fighting men

US Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings at Pointe du Hoc. At the end of the two-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225 or more was reduced to about 90 fighting men

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