- A ‘ghost village’ cleared in December 1943 is to host its last ever funeral.
- Imber, found in the Salisbury Plain in the UK, was evacuated in December 1943.
- The village was emptied for American troopers to train during World War Two.
- The site is still used for training. However, civilians were not allowed to return.
- The town will host the funeral of Ray Nash, a resident, after ten years.
A village named Imber, found within the Salisbury Plain in the UK, was evacuated in December of 1943. The villagers were evicted to allow American troops to train during World War Two in the build up to D-Day.
The village has meandering roads that lead out to West Lavington and Tilshead. It was a small yet busy village with necessities like a school, church, and even a pub. Even after the war ended, the residents were not allowed to return to their village. Promises had been made that they could return within 6 months. Salisbury Plain is the UK’s biggest tank training ground.
Since then, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has used the site for military training. However, on January 5, 2023, packed civilian coaches will make their way to the village, and an army escort will accompany it.
They will be carrying around a hundred well-wishers from the town Devizes, who will gather to pay their final respects to Ray Nash.
Ray Nash and His Funeral
Ray Nash is a former Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) mechanic. He left the village of Imber with his mother after his father passed away in 1936. Nash visited the village every year, as far as his son Kelvin can remember.
Kelvin, also a town councilor in Devizes, said: “My dad will be buried next to his father, Jim – something he had wished for a long time. Even though he left Imber when he was young, he always had a connection with it.”
“We’d go back and meet relatives there. I remember I was more interested in finding spent bullets. But next time I’m back, I’ll experience the emotional connection that my dad had,” Kevin added.
The funeral for Ray Nash will be held at St Giles Church on Thursday, January 5.
Life at Imber Now and Then
Former residents visiting Imber are met with structures of former homes and an echo of a community that once thrived. A series of pictures the Nash family shares gives insight into what life was like at Imber.
Kelvin added: ‘‘The church in the village was the Church of St Giles, so every year on St Giles day, September 1, we would go and visit the church and village, which would be open to the public.”
One picture shows Nash and his relatives on an annual visit to the ghost village. The individuals are standing in the doorway of Nash’s mother’s home.
However, a picture like this would be impossible to capture today. Now, buildings are not accessible to the public on the grounds of safety.
Kelvin expects his father to be the last person buried in the village ground. However, any other residents are unlikely to be alive eighty years after evacuation.
Read More: WW2 Howitzers Being Used in Ukraine
“I think the last funeral was about ten years ago now, so as time has passed, he may be the last person to be buried there,” Kelvin said. According to Kevin, his great-uncle Albert was the village blacksmith in 1943. He died in 1944 of a broken heart as per his death certificate. His death was tough on the family.
During the organization of the funeral, the Nash family reconnected with a third cousin who lives only five miles away from the village.
Kelvin explained that arranging the funeral was much easier than he had imagined. There is a man who volunteers to look after the village. He has connections with the MoD and sorts out everything. He has been taking care of the village connections for 17 years.
Moreover, it was -6 degrees in Imber when Kelvin went to check on his father’s grave at 7 a.m. He described how the sky was exceptionally clear and tranquil. It made him think of the life of farmers in the 1920s and 30s and how harsh their life would have been.
Nowadays, Imber is only open to the public a few days a year. The village is in the heart of the army’s Salisbury Plain military training area.
To be buried in Imber, you need MoD permission and proof of residency.