There is something eerie but magical about visiting Imber. You drive over Salisbury Plain from Warminster and pass remains of old tanks and compounds the army has used for training and target practice. When you arrive in the village, all the old dwellings and public buildings are boarded up and many more no longer standing.
In 1943, the military decided to use Imber for the war effort. The villagers were given 47 days to leave and sadly were never allowed to return. They made way for American soldiers who were training for the inevitable invasion of mainland Europe during World War Two, in particular the D-Day landings.
My Great, Great Grandad and his wife were both born in Imber and married in the village. My Nan leant me a book a few weeks before lockdown about the villages surrounding Warminster. Percy Wyatt, my Great Grandad, told his story and some family history:
“My dads name was Arthur Wyatt. He were born at Imber, on Salisbury plain: you see, my people were Imber people...”
After diving deeper in to my family history on www.ancestry.co.uk I’ve discovered that my Imber based family goes back hundreds of years before Percy. Many of my relatives are buried in the church there.
The Church of St Giles is the only building untouched by the army. The church dates back to the 13th century and stands where a former Norman church stood.
I really enjoy visiting Imber - especially as we have family ties to the village. I think that’s what makes it even more special.
I love this poem written about Imber-
Little Imber on the Downe
Seven miles from any Towne
Sheep bleats the only sound
Life twer sweet with ne'er a frown
Oh let us bide on Imber Downe
Salisbury Plain and Imber are still used by the MOD as an army training centre. It’s mainly off limits, but opens to the public at certain times of the year. Easter is one of them, but sadly it remained closed this year. Check http://www.imberchurch.org.uk/events.html for more information.