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Wareham at War
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In August 1914 the First World War broke out and Wareham became a muster point for territorial soldiers. By 1917 there were 7,500 men stationed in and around Wareham in camp, with many of the regiments from the north of England including the Yorkshire regiment and the Lancashire and Yorkshire and, to the north of the town, Australian and the New Zealand regiments.

The main camp was sited on both sides of the Worgret Road and included an infirmary, chapels and a garrison theatre. The camp was dismantled in the 1920s and some of the buildings were sold off for scout huts and village halls. Four miles to the east of Wareham is Holton Heath where, in 1915, a vast ammunition factory was constructed.

The London and South Western Railway built a station there and a workforce of several thousand people were employed with most of the workers being women who arrived by special trains from Poole and Bournemouth. Much of the process was carried on underground to reduce the risk of damage by accidental explosion. Despite their best efforts this actually happened in the 1930s and several lives were lost.

During the Second World War the Isle of Purbeck was a hive of military activity. In Swanage, secret research was being carried out by scientists to develop Radar and there was a real fear of enemy invasion along the coast.

Enemy aircraft regularly flew over looking for the ammunition factory at Holton Heath but it was protected by an elaborate anti-aircraft defence system. Wareham itself was not an obvious military target but in December 1942 it received a direct hit from a stray German bomber.

The blast destroyed several properties but narrowly missed the Saxon church of St. Martin. In October 1943 the Americans arrived and proceeded to spend the next six months building up their forces in readiness for D-Day. During this time intensive training took place for the Normandy invasion and large areas of Purbeck were out of bounds to the general public. In one case, the village of Tyneham was completely evacuated, the residents being told that they could return to their homes after the war but this never came to pass.
Winston Churchill watches a Universal Carrier Mark I
The Prime Minister Winston Churchill watches a Universal Carrier Mark I on the road near Wareham, on 17 July 1940.
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Worgret
Above: Early tented camp. Below: Later in the Great War
Worgret
Mount Pleasant St Martin's Cottages
Mount Pleasant, where the bomb fell Damaged St Martin's Cottages, rebuilt after the raid
The Legion Remembers
The Legion Remembers
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