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Stanford Battle Area, also known as the Stanford Training Area (STANTA), is a British Army infantry training area situated in the English county of Norfolk. The area is approximately 30,000 acres (120 km2) in size, and is situated some 7 miles (11 km) north of the town of Thetford and 25 miles (40 km) south-west of the city of Norwich.[1]

The area was originally established in 1942 when a battle training area was required. Military exercises were already known in the area; tanks had trained at Thetford in the First World War. The complete takeover involved the evacuation of the villages of Buckenham Tofts, Langford, Stanford, Sturston, Tottington and West Tofts.[2]

The area was used during the run-up to the D-Day invasion and since then has hosted many exercises. A regular visitor is 16 Air Assault Brigade who hold their annual Gryphon exercises there.

In 2009 a 12.5 acre village designed to replicate an Afghan village was added to the Battle Area for the training of troops deployed in support of the War in Afghanistan. The site, built at a cost of £14 million, is state of the art and manned by ex-Gurkha soldiers and amputees from the charity Amputees for Action, to simulate locals and wounded soldiers. The village includes houses, a market and a mosque, It also features a system that pumps out smells like rotten meat and sewage.[3]

The battle area includes 4 historic churches, the one at West Tofts being restored by Pugin, and a new "church" that forms part of the specially constructed village of Eastmere. Eastmere was originally built to give soldiers experience of fighting on the northern European plains.

There is a short landing strip for Harrier aircraft at 52°32′29″N 0°42′06″E / 52.541422°N 0.701805°E / 52.541422; 0.701805.

As a live firing area, access is not allowed without special permission from the Army. In the main this is limited to a number of tours a year and compassionate grounds for former residents of the villages or their relatives.

The area forms part of the distinctive Breckland landscape region, a gorse-covered sandy heath which offers poor agricultural opportunities. Arguably, its use as a military training area has safeguarded a substantial archaeological landscape. It is the home of a wealth of rare species of flora and fauna already lost in other parts of the country. Parts of the training area are designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The battle area has had much less impact than the establishment of Thetford Forest on adjoining land.[4]

The battle area was used in the filming of many of the episodes of the comedy series Dad's Army, especially those where the platoon goes on exercise.

References

External links

See also BBC WW2 Peoples War site Breckland Exodus-The Forced Evacuation of the Norfolk Battle Area 1942 Part 1

See also BBC WW2 Peoples War site Breckland Exodus-The Forced Evacuation of the Norfolk Battle Area 1942 Part 2 by Conal O'Donnell

And Violets for Vera-the death of West Tofts School 1942 by Conal O'Donnell

Coordinates: 52°31′15″N 0°45′17″E / 52.52078°N 0.75480°E / 52.52078; 0.75480

Touring the Stanta ghost villages

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