Soldiers' exercise invaded

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The Independent Online
AN INTERNAL inquiry is to be held by the Army after civilians descended on the deserted village of Imber, on Salisbury Plain, in the middle of a military exercise.

Imber, evacuated for Army training in 1943, has traditionally been open to the public on August bank holiday. A caller who rang the Army's switchboard at its headquarters in Warminster during the bank holiday afternoon was told the normal access arrangement was operating.

Visitors arrived to find signs of military activity with Army Land- Rovers speeding along the roads. While a permanent notice at the approach road from the village of Bratton stated the way ahead was closed, the barriers to traffic were raised and there were no soldiers on sentry duty.

A patrolling land warden, battling to turn back a constant flow of vehicles, said an exercise was due to start at 6pm involving tanks and firing live ammunition. But Major Alec Bain, duty field officer at Warminster barracks, said there were no tanks and only blanks were to be used.

He said: 'We only man the barriers when the ranges are live or if there are exercises involving firing live ammunition. If it is ordinary soldiering then we don't man them. But the position will be looked at within the School of Infantry, which mans the ranges.'