of Green Man
reviews Tanks for the Memory by FieldworkIm willing to bet that most people have never heard of Tyneham, a village in Dorset, England, let alone be able to find it on any map. Not surprising, really, when I tell you the little known story behind this CD. The story starts back in 1917 with the invention of the tank and in the years before World War II during which the Royal Tank Corps was established at Bindon Hill. About half a mile inland from the sea at Worbarrow Bay, set in bowl of the Dorset hills, nestled the peaceful remote village of Tyneham. It was a beautiful unspoilt valley that time and the tourist industry had past by.
Suddenly in 1943 all was to change for the villagers, when the War Department announced that the area was to be taken over for Army training. The shocked inhabitants were told they had a month to leave their homes. However, the shock was lessened by a letter from the War Dept Land Agent that said when the War Dept has no further use for the property and is handed back, you will have every right to return to the property. Understandably this was taken as a promise and the villagers move out.
However, when the war was over the Army kept control of Tyneham, and despite a vigorous campaign by the villagers to Parliament, the village was never handed back. The military finally acquired the area by compulsory purchase in 1952, but the campaign continued through the 1960s and despite Lord Nugents report in 1973 which recommended the Army leave the area, the villagers were never to return to their homes. Even today, they only have occasional access to the ghost village, which is now a tourist attraction, to tend to the graves of their relatives in the yard of the Church the Army restored and which is only used on special occasions.
The album Tanks For The Memory was born out of the story and was presented originally as a stage production written by Mick Ryan and directed by John Bond. The performers formed Fieldwork and lead by Mick Ryan and Pete Harris, who need no introduction, are Sarah Mallinson on vocals, keyboard and accordion, John, Nicola, and Sophie Bond on vocals and reading and Nancy Scott, also reading.
Told in poetry and song it tells of the feeling and misery of the villagers, who left sadly but willingly, encouraged with a promise that they would be allowed to return. But the promise was broken. It is hard to believe that the military did not conceive that the area would end up poisoned by unexploded shells.
One of the actors (readers) has a real Dorset accent that sets the atmosphere beautifully. Interspersed with songs from Mick and the other players, so the story is told. Most of the tunes fall into the folk song idiom, but one used for the song The Tank has utilised the Fred Gilbert) music hall tune The Man who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo to good effect (with different words of course, by Mick Ryan). Most of the other songs, for the main part, have words written by Mick Ryan, and one by Lillian and Sophie Bond and another by Joanna Ryan have utilised trad tunes. In all it flows and comes over very well and paints a picture in your mind.
Taken away from the poetry and story readings etc, several of the songs could stand alone and would grace another album without any trouble, the most notable of these being Defending The Island, reflecting the Dorset coast line when invasion threatened in days gone by. Farewell, saying goodbye to friends and neighbours, is so sad. However I thought the most powerful song on the album is Promises, Promises: Kings, Clerics, and Politicians all make promises - but how many keep them?
This album is sure to be of interest to anyone from Dorset, but even to one who lives over 200 miles away, the album is very entertaining and good listening, and I am sure you will enjoy it too.