Portillo's Hidden History of Britain

Imber Village - The Wages of War

Series 1 - Episode 4 Imber Village - The Wages of War



When you look at a map of Salisbury Plain, you can understand why, in 1943, the residents of Imber were ordered to leave. The village is bang slap in the middle of military training grounds and during the Second World War, the chances of a farmer or schoolchild getting accidentally squished by a tank increased dramatically.

At the time, the villagers, who received no compensation or rehousing help, were promised they could return after the war. Shockingly, as Michael Portillo discovers, that never happened. Instead Imber – now a mournful collection of derelict buildings – is open to the public on just a few days a year.


In 1943, the village of Imber in Wiltshire's Salisbury Plain began to be used as a Second World War training ground. At risk from friendly fire, each household was ordered by the War Office to abandon its home for the duration of the conflict. Despite promises that the residents could return after the war, the village remains in the hands of the military, and has been since used for training against the IRA and the Taliban. Michael meets former residents and relatives to hear this story of upheaval, and talks to historians to reveal the history behind the desolation of this ancient village.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Portillo
Executive Producer Jazz Gowans
Series Director Ruairi Fallon
Series Producer Ruairi Fallon
Documentary History