Newspaper report from an unknown British newspaper dating from summer 1944.
Back to S.W. “Battle” Area by September 15
People will soon be going home – some to a ruined Village
Most of the people evacuated from their homes seven months ago in order that an area in the south-west might be used as a battle-training ground for U.S. troops will be gack again in a couple of months.
This applies to the villages of Blackawton, Easton Allington, Slapton, Strete, Stoke Fleming, Sherton and Stokenham, although there is little left of Strete. At a meeting of the Rural District Council on Friday, the Chairman said the authorities responsible for de-requisitioning the area were aiming at September 15 next as the time when most of the people might be back in their homes.
It was his own personal impression that certain villages might be re-occupied by that date, but others might not be ready until a few months later. Speaking of a visit which he and other officials paid to the area last week, Mr Prowse said at the outset he must say that the chief object of the visit was to inspect the roads.
Generally speaking, the condition of the roads was not too bad. Every road was passable, but a good many of the roadside hedges and walls were down. In most of the villages, little damage could be seen. At one place, there were one or two holes in the roof of the church. The village of Strete, except for the building formerly used by the Women’s Institute, had been burned down.
A clergyman member of the Council said he had heard that in one village a field had been used as a cemetery. The chairman replied that such a statement was entirely false, as were many of the stories in circulation relating to the damage done to property in the training area. He added “We only saw three signs of human habitation: Three vans. It was uncanny.”
Little damage had been caused to water supply and sewerage. The plan for rehabilitating the area was to begin on the perimeter and to work inwards. Extreme care was being taken to ensure that no live ammunition was left in the area. Flying squads of men were being brought in to execute necessary repairs to houses, so that people could occupy them as soon as possible.
The Vice-Chairman paid tribute to the great number of people from the area who had borne their hardships without making any complaint. He hoped the people affected would feel rewarded and be proud of the fact that they had played a real and personal part in the landings at Normandy.
Many of the troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy trained on beaches in this area. The people’s sacrifices had not been in vain, and it might be comforting for them to know that.
One member agreed with these remarks. On the other hand, the financial sacrifice which the evacuees had had to make could have been avoided. Another member said they must not overlook the fact that the whole country had benefited by the sacrifices of these people and, therefore, it was only fair that the whole country should put their hands in their pockets and help in the rehabilitation.
Hostel for Workers to be Set Up
The County War Agricultural Executive Committee will assist in the rehabilitation of the farms and is setting up an office in the area for this purpose.
It is hoped to get most of the farmers back before the winter sets in and the Committee will help them to the fullest possible extent with ploughing and in supplying labour.
Much work will have to be undertaken in clearing the land of any lurking danger from unexploded shells and the like before cultivation can be resumed.
A hostel for land workers is to be established, and a pool of WLA girls and other labour will soon be available for farmers to draw upon when they require it.