2021 Military on Salisbury Plain

The SPTA Newsletter is now available on line.  I hope you find it useful.



12th Regiment Royal Artillery - 21.07.21 & 22.07.21
The 12th Regiment Royal Artillery are from Thorney Island Barracks and were training on the Plain.
The Starstreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) is designed to counter threats from very high performance, low-flying aircraft and fast 'pop up' strikes by helicopter attacks.
The missile, which travels at more than three times the speed of sound, uses a system of three dart-like projectiles, allowing multiple hits on the target. HVM can be fired from the shoulder, from a lightweight multiple launcher or from the Stormer armoured vehicle.
6 Armoured Close Support Battalion REME - 05.07.21
This is one of the CRARRV crews who have been very helpful with information and also very busy!
The British CRARRV aka Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle is built on a Challenger 1 chassis and was developed in the 1980’s to recover damaged Challenger 1 Tanks. The vehicle has remained in British Army service since the introduction of the Challenger 2 and is operated by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers aka REME.
The King's Royal Hussars - 05.07.21
This is the end of exercise after two weeks on the plain day and night,  with other supporting Regiments.  There were three main battle groups in total.
The King's Royal Hussars, whose Colonel-in-Chief is HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, KG, KT, GCVO, is a British armoured regiment based in Tidworth, Wiltshire with a long history and great cavalry traditions. 
Equipped with the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank and the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (CVR) (Tracked). 
Bridge Laying using the Unipower M-series - 15.06.21
Extract from military-com
The Unipower M-series range of military trucks was developed by Universal Power Drives in the late 1980s. These high mobility trucks were designed for demanding military applications. Trucks were intended to carry specialized equipment and used as heavy equipment transporters. First production vehicles were completed in 1992. Alvis Plc acquired the company in 1994 and the trucks began to be branded as Alvis Unipower.
The Unipower M-series chassis has a payload capacity of 24 000 kg. It was proposed for the British Army as a Palletized Loading Systems (PLS), BR90 bridgelayer, heavy recovery vehicle and fuel tanker.
About 190 BR90 bridgelayers and associated bridge section carriers, based on the Unipower M-series trucks were produced. Deliveries of the BR90 commenced in 1997, however other versions received no production orders.
An all-metal cab accommodates driver, plus 4 passengers. Cab is equipped with independent heater and air conditioning system. Some vehicles have a roof hatch. A roof-mounted machine gun mount can be fitted if required.
The Unipower M-series trucks are powered either by Cummins M380E 11-liter turbocharged diesel engine, developing 375 hp, or Perkins 410Tx 12.2-liter turbocharged diesel engine, 403 hp. Both engines are coupled with automatic gearboxes. In 1997 a new variant of the M-series was introduced, powered by a more powerful Cummins diesel engine, developing 405 hp. The engine is located behind the cab. On the Unipower M-series trucks the first two pairs of wheels are steered. Vehicles are fitted with a central tyre pressure system. The Unipower M-series have a good cross-country mobility. They can follow tracked vehicles in the most difficult terrain.
Further development of the M-series was a range of MH-series prime movers. These were heavy duty tank transporters, designed to operate in off-road conditions. These could transport main battle tanks with a maximum weight of 70 t.
The MH-6600 (6x6) tractor truck was powered by a Cummins KTA-19 19-liter turbocharged diesel engine, developing 600 hp. The MH-8875 (8x8) was powered by a Cummins QSK-19 turbocharged diesel, developing 750 hp. Both vehicles were fitted with a 5-speed automatic transmissions. A fully loaded tank transporter has a maximum road speed of 85 km/h.
These prime movers were equipped with two loading winches. They were used in conjunction with semi-trailers, specially developed by a French Nicolas company. Cabs of these trucks provide seating for driver, plus 5 passengers.
A number of MH-6600 6x6 tank transporters with associated semi-trailers have been sold to Oman. The MH-8875 8x8 tank transporter was proposed to the British Army, however the Alvis was eliminated from the bidding process and American Oshkosh M1070 heavy equipment transporter was selected instead.
A number of other proposed M-series variants received no production orders. In the late 1990s production of Alvis Unipower military trucks stopped due to the lack of orders. By 2000 the M-series was no longer marketed. In 2004 Alvis company was taken over by BAE Systems.

Bravo River Crossing - 12.06.21

During the June exercise Wessex Storm deployed 3 battle groups of approximately 3,000 troops onto SPTA.
There were French, Irish, Scots and other nationalities on this exercise.  There was live firing in the West and Centre to support the exercise.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on Exercise Wessex Storm.
Over 100 of their new vehicles being used on the exercise, moved on roads between Dumfriesshire and Grantham  for the next phase of Ex Wessex Storm.  The convoy overnighted in Grantham Barracks Lincs to give the drivers a break during the journey to Salisbury Plain.
The Jackal is a reconnaissance and rapid assault vehicle, which allows troops to be ultra mobile and respond to incidents on the battlefield quickly and with as much protection as that mobility will afford. It can also be used for fire support and convoy protection roles. it has successfully been used on deployment to Afghanistan.
Last evening the battle group had to ford the River Avon at Bravo Crossing, the Jackals and Coyote vehicles had little problems crossing the deep water, however, a few Land Rovers found it beyond their limits in places.  The River Avon is a chalk fed river and was deeper than expected for this time of the year.
The problem with the Land Rovers was that they were fording in water up to 4 feet deep, plus the bow wave effect making up to 6 feet.  Therefore, the water could penetrate the engines, which can make the engines seize, bend the con rods and valves. 
After 20 plus Land Rovers had problems, the Land Rovers were permitted, in the interest of safety, over the bridge.  
Night Attack on Coombe Farm - 30.05.21
After hearing the noise of tanks and remembering what they said about moving at 10:00, I went over to Coombe Farm and watched the battle group attack the target in the dark.

Engineers 854 - 03.05.21

KRH CRARRV's - 03.02.21

KRH rescue their other Crarrv which was on transit during the exercise and blocks the bridge.



Copehill Down - Part of Salisbury Plain Training Area - 09.01.21

Extract from Wikipedia

Copehill Down is a Ministry of Defence training facility near Chitterne on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England. It is a 'FIBUA' (Fighting In Built Up Areas) urban warfare and close quarters battle training centre, where exercises and tests are conducted.

The site lies in open ground in the northeast of Chitterne parish, between Chitterne and Tilshead.

The facility was built in 1987 to resemble a German village in Bavaria, to provide troops with a simulated backdrop when training for operations in European theatres including the Cold War, the Balkans and Northern Ireland.

The facility includes a shanty town made up of cargo containers stacked and laid out in rows of tightly packed streets, to provide an additional training area that more closely resembles the Army's operational theatres in Operation Herrick and Operation Telic.

Non-combat access to Copehill Down is generally restricted, however the facility has been used for airsoft wargaming and by historical reenactment societies, which take part in private reenactments of battles.

St Giles Church

Imber - 02.01.21

A small village in Wiltshire called Imber is famously known as the ‘Ghost village’ of the Second World War. During World War II.  Imber residents were evicted with just 47 days notice during World War II, it was then turned into a military facility where soldiers received training for the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Before WWII broke out, Imber’s community consisted of 170 residents. The government had started buying land around the village for a while before, and in the year 1940, the small community of Imber was asked to look for new houses and jobs elsewhere, leaving their village forever. Most of the town was then turned into a military training facility. Soldiers needed intense training prior to the Normandy invasion, due to the crucial nature of the campaign. Training soldiers before the actual invasion turned out to be a wise decision. The Normandy invasion enabled the Allied forces to hit deep into Nazi-controlled territory, eventually forcing them to retreat from France and Belgium.

The training area of Imber was also used later by the Ministry of Defence to train troops operating in Northern Ireland during the IRA crisis. In Northern Ireland, the British army faced a different sort of warfare, which was novel to most of the soldiers. At Imber, soldiers were trained in patrolling a residential area and manoeuvring in case of an ambush or a sniper attack.

The residents of Imber did not resist the military’s orders to move, primarily because they thought they were doing a service for their country at war. Initially, they thought that after the war they were going to come back, but they were never given permission to return.

It was never handed back and to this day remains a training ground for urban warfare. It is open to the public only on selected days. The only residents allowed back are those who have died, to be buried there in the church graveyard. 


The following is a copy of the letter sent to tenants to vacate:

For Cottage Tenants holding direct from W.D. [War Department]
W.D. Estate Office,

Dear Sir/Madam

Imber Training Area

Arising out of the decision that increased training facilities are to be made available in the Imber area, I regret to inform you that it is necessary to evacuate the major part of the Department's Imber Estate, including your dwelling.

To this end I enclose you formal notice to quit. The area has to be evacuated and made available for training by Dec 17th. In this connection you will note that the formal notice to quit expires on and it is confirmed that there will be no objection, if it assists you, to your remaining in your dwelling as tenant on sufferance until a date not later than Dec 17th 1943.

It is appreciated that apart from the distress the move will cause you, it must inevitably occasion direct expense for which you have no legal redress against the Department. It is however, desired to assist you in this direction as far as is practicable and equitable, and I am directed to state that the Department is prepared in principle but without prejudice to refund to you reasonable expenses incurred by you in respect of the removal of your furniture to your new home, and the travelling expenses thereto of yourself and members of your family at present living with you. In addition, if you are so unfortunate as not to be able to find alternative accommodation, and it is necessary to remove your furniture to store, the Department will refund the cost of removal to store and reasonable storage charges until you can find another house, or until the Imber area is again open for occupation, whichever is the earlier.

Further the Department is prepared if you so desire to take over from you by valuation, any produce in your garden which you are unable to harvest and take with you, and I shall be glad if you will let me have as soon as possible any claim you wish to make under this head.

Yours faithfully,
A.O. Thorne
Lieutenant. Colonel,
Command Land Agent
Southern Command.


Urban Warfare Training Units

Perhaps the most fascinating feature at Imber is this purpose-bult military training area, with simple rectangular houses for training troops in house to house combat. The Uran Warfare units were used to prepare troops for combat in places like Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

‘Imberbus’ service running from Warminster to the lost village of Imber

THE annual heritage ‘Imberbus’ service running from Warminster to the lost village of Imber and other isolated locations on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire makes a return in August each year to raise funds for charity.

Imber village, in the middle of Salisbury Plain, was evacuated in 1943 by the Army to allow it to be used as a training area in advance of D-Day.

Other than a few days each year, Imber village has been out of bounds to the public ever since.  The 16th century St Giles's Church, looked after by volunteers with the Churches Conservation Trust, remains and is well worth a visit. 

This most unusual bus service across the Plain not only allows people to get a fascinating and rare glimpse of Imber, it allows a day out visiting Tilshead, Chitterne and the Lavingtons where you can eat and drink in village halls and country pubs.  There’s nothing quite like traversing Salisbury Plain from the top of a red double decker bus.

The use of a combination of historic red London double-deck Routemaster buses and the newer, but no less iconic, wheelchair accessible New Routemasters to take visitors along the route.

The Imberbus event was first run in 2009 as a one-off, however it proved so popular that it has been run every year since then, as it continues to attract lots of attention as well as helping raise money for charity.

It  recently raised £13,000 which was split between the Friends of St Giles’s Church and the Royal British Legion.

St Giles Church

Beside the urban warfare units a paved road leads uphill to St Giles Church. The church dates to at least the 13th century, and stands on the site of an earlier Norman church. The super Perpendicular west tower was added in the 15th century. The most interesting feature is a series of medieval wall paintings, including the Weighing of Souls, and the Seven Deadly Sins. On unusual highlight is a painted mural under the tower depicting plain changes for bell-ringers. Think of them as a musical score for bell-ringers. The pain changes mural dates to 1692 and is thought to be the oldest in England. St Giles is a wonderful medieval church and is worth worth a trip to explore on open days. One day in the year it is sure to be open is the closest Sunday to St Giles's Day.


Baptist Chapel Burial Ground

Immediately east of The Bell a signposted trail leads across the grass to an overgrown fenced area to the cemetery for the Baptist chapel. The chapel itself stood further up the slope, but was pulled down in the 1970s. Though the cemetery is overgrown, you can wander about and view quite a number of old gravestones. You can also get a very good view of the nearby council houses.

Over half of Imber's residents belonged to the Baptist movement. Until 1833 they had to worship in local houses, but in that year a new chapel was built, for a total cost of £238. In 1858 a school was attached to the chapel. The school had an attendance of twice the Church of England school. It eventually closed in 1895 when state-funded education became the norm.

The Bell

This building was  a pub known as The Bell.


Council Houses

The next place to see two large council houses, erected in 1938, just 5 years before the village was deserted. There were originally 8 council houses, but 6 of these were pulled down by the military. 

Nag's Head Cottages

If you carry on east past St Giles Church you will see the Nag's Head Cottages on the opposite side of the road. This set of two semi-detached cottages take their names from the former Nag's Head pub which formerly occupied the property. Records are scanty, but the pub seems to have closed in the early 19th century, and the cottages were used as dwellings after that time.

Imber Court

On the opposite side of the main road from the Bell Inn and the Baptist cemetery you will find high stone walls enclosing Imber Court, a beautiful 17th century manor house, rebuilt in the 18th century. The Court was damaged by fire in 1920 and restored. It was built by the Wadman family, lords of the manor during the 17th and 18th centuries. When the Wadman's sold the Court it was used as an academy for young gentlemen before the Dean family took ownership. The Dean's were lords of the manor throughout the 19th century and owned 3 local farms.

Nothing now remains of the Court's gardens and lawns, and barbed wire along the stone wall belies the elegance of the historic buildings beyond. You can still see traces of an avenue of trees leading to the dog kennels. A lane runs past the Court towards Imber Court Farm, but the lane is closed to visitors.

Seagrams Farm This is one of only six of the remaining original buildings that remain in the village of Imber. The rest of the buildings were destroyed by the Army in the years following their takeover in 1943. Segrams farm has the date 1880 above the door. 

If you have any queries or wish to purchase a photograph, please contact me:


+44 7831237759



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  • Eleanor firmstone (Thursday, January 23 20 09:20 am GMT)

    Hi, do you have any information on the steam roller ru7342. We now own the roller and wondered what year this was taken.
    Thanks Eleanor

  • Sarah Mitchell (Wednesday, September 11 19 10:31 pm BST)

    Hi there is a wonderful picture you took of a dear friend of mine on his journey to the gdsf this year. It is in the western daily press dated 22/08/19 Carl Brown roading the Marshall to gdsf. I cannot locate this picture on any website to purchase and was hoping i could purchase through yourself many thanks Sarah

  • John Baines (Friday, April 05 19 03:45 pm BST)

    Have you any photogaphs of James & Crockerills yard in Durrington? Their MD Peter Barber owned the Burrell Scenic Road loco 'Prince of Wales@ and other engines including Burrell roller 'Daffodil'

  • Zoe Read (Saturday, March 02 19 07:08 pm GMT)

    I see you already have dates for this one but I wondered if you would consider adding Purbeck Rally to your event list?
    9th -11th August
    worgret road, wareham, dorset, BH20 6AB
    Raising funds for Forest Holme Hospice Charity & other local causes.

  • Andrew Gray (Wednesday, February 20 19 07:55 pm GMT)

    Is that Mr Dimmer and the train made at Durrington Sec Modern, I started there 1963 and left 1968. Mr Dimmer (Regg) was such a great teacher. Wonderful set of images to treasure. p.s we met today at the Boscombe Down Tornado fly past.

  • Jamie (Saturday, September 01 18 01:39 am BST)


    I am Jamie. One of the coalomen from last weeks steam fair. I know you mentioned taking lots of photos of us and it would be lovely to see them. Please get back to me when you can with prices ect i will most certainly purchase a few! In the meantime i will admire wgat you have on your page here already, hope you enjoyed the show! Speak soon


  • Don Russell (Friday, August 17 18 08:51 am BST)

    Hullo, found your site when looking for GDSF info. I was wondering if you had any information regarding engines travelling to the GDSF. I read engines will be raising money for cancer on there journey but I cannot find any info regarding route and timings.Thanks

  • Brian Moore (Saturday, August 04 18 12:40 pm BST)

    Thanks David: Brian

  • Peter Freeman (Thursday, May 10 18 09:56 pm BST)

    Fantastic site, easy to read and great pics! Keep up the good work.

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