Imber evacuation's 70th anniversary marked by service

Men in Imber Happier times in Imber, Wiltshire, before the sudden evacuation in 1943

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A church service to mark 70 years since the residents of a Wiltshire village were told to leave because the military was taking it over, has been held.

The army took over Imber during World War II, to use the area on Salisbury Plain for training, forcing residents to move out, never to return.

It has been used by the military ever since, with access granted to the public on a number of occasions a year.

Only a handful of the original residents are still alive.

Some told their stories of the evacuation during the service at Edington Priory Church near Westbury, which was led by the Reverend Mark Jones.

'Powerful story'

"It's important for those people who actually grew up there and still have strong memories [and connections] about the place" he said.

"It's the story of people's lives, and Imber has a strong and powerful story to tell."

The entire civilian population of Imber was ordered to leave in 1943 to provide a training area for American troops preparing for the D-Day landings.

Since 2005, when the church was taken over by the Churches Conservation Trust, more than £300,000 has been spent on renovations.

Public access to the village is granted by the MoD on up to 50 days a year, including periods over Easter, Christmas, New Year and in August.

The service formed part of this year's Westbury Music and Arts Festival, which runs until 13 October.

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