HOW A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE INSPIRED THE FORGOTTEN VILLAGE
When I came up with the plot for my debut novel, I hadn’t even heard of Tyneham, the real Dorset village, requisitioned in the midst of World War 2 and never handed back.
Without giving away any plot spoilers, I had crafted the story of Lady Veronica, her husband Albert, and Veronica’s past love Freddie, who returns to his ancestral home in the midst of war. But for various reasons, I needed a location where secrets could feasibly lay undiscovered for over 70 years. I think it can sometimes be difficult to bring the reader with you on a journey where secrets are locked away for so long. And so I sat on this story, filed it away and decided to move on with something else. As it turns out, that ‘something else,’ will be book two.
And then my husband found a Facebook post with a link to a national newspaper article and tagged me. Photos Show Crumbling Remains of Tyneham Village, the article said. Never was I tagged in a more appropriate Facebook post. I clicked, read, and my mind whirred into action.
I became obsessed with Tyneham, reading everything I could get my hands on. News articles, archive material, accounts of the run up to leaving. So many of the elements interested me of this sad tale of a village having its entire population turfed out. For a start, how had I never heard of this place? For a WW2 Home Front obsessive I was blown away by the story of how over two hundred residents were forced to leave so quickly.
How much time did they have to pack and go? Where had they all relocated to? Why hadn’t they been able to return when they were so earnestly promised they would be?
The real life requisitioned village of Tyneham is among the most eeriest of places. Nestled in a quiet valley, this seaside village is hard to get to. To reach it, you have to make sure the army have ceased their tank training in the hills above, or you risk trespassing and getting shot with ammunition as you drive through MOD land. This stretch of Dorset coastline is closed off most of the year. It’s only open during some days in school holidays and a few weekends.
I wrote 60,000 words of what would become The Forgotten Village and then I paused. Photographs weren’t enough. I dressed up a research trip to Tyneham as a family holiday, found the only day during the Easter holidays when the army were allowing tourists into the village and allowed myself to become immersed. The rest of the story just flowed.
The Forgotten Village doesn’t attempt to delve too deeply into the intricacies of the requisition of Tyneham. I’m not sure I wanted to give readers a history lesson. Instead I hope I’ve written a well-paced story of love both lost and found, great sacrifice and how all is not forgotten even though it often appears to be.
And let me know what you think about this blog post in the comments below or message me. I’d love to hear from you.