Protesters retaliated by hurling missiles at police who had fired Tasers when the eviction got underway at the rear of the illegal camp just after sunrise this morning. Talks that were going on at the front gate are thought to have been a police distraction.
Anarchists used motorcycle D-locks to chain themselves by the neck to ruined cars but police used their shields to barge protesters aside as they marched deeper into the site.
Electricity was cut and moments later a caravan was set alight, sending flames and thick black smoke into the air. After a 90-minute stand off the police made another push into the site at 9.25am and scaled the scaffolding at the entrance to the camp.
Wearing helmets and clutching shields, the officers turned up at the site determined to tackle the travellers who last night declared 'this time it's war - bring it on'. The police had prepared under the cover of darkness and marched over nearby countryside to arrive at the back of the site just before 7.30am.
A warning klaxon was sounded three times to notify travellers then bulldozers were used to smash down fences. Police hacked through shabby fences to get into the site.
At another barricade, a strong line of officers ignored a rambling traveller and pushed forward. Anarchists were chained by their necks to ruined vehicles filled with concrete.
Just 24 hours earlier, following years of negotiations that cost the taxpayer £18million, the travellers lost their bid to keep the homes that had been built illegally on green belt land.
Essex Police said two protesters have been Tasered today and one person arrested. They made a number of attempts to negotiate with demonstrators to leave the site peacefully.
The force said: 'Officers have this morning entered the Dale Farm site following intelligence which informed the commanders that anyone entering the site was likely to come up against violence and a serious breach of the peace would occur.
'Intelligence received indicated protesters had stockpiled various items with the intent of using these against bailiffs and police.
'The first officers on the site were attacked with missiles being thrown, including rocks and liquids. These officers were fully equipped to deal with this situation.'
Residents in neighbouring counties have been preparing themselves for an influx of the evicted travellers.
Park wardens have started digging trenches around open land to ensure that caravans cannot be driven onto the grass.
Supermarkets have also stepped up security to prevent the travellers from using their carparks and road junctions are being monitored.
Farmers in the area surrounding Dale Farm have placed hay bales and farming equipment at the entrances to their land to prevent residents getting in following the eviction, local residents said.
One said: "They have begun to do this in the last couple of weeks. It looks like it is to stop evicted residents getting on to the farms."
One activist, who was preparing to lock herself to a wrecked car forming part of the barricade inside Dale Farm, said this morning that she expected police and bailiffs to enter the site 'any way they can'.
'The fact that police and bailiffs are being paid millions of pounds to tear families out of their homes is a disgrace,' she said.
Last-minute work to reinforce the barricades behind the main gate at the site in Essex was carried out yesterday.
Two cars and a former Russian military vehicle were parked behind the gate. Piles of wood and bricks were piled up at key points as the complex was secured.
But this morning, unlike the farcical scenes last month, the police showed no leniency and barged their way through the ramshackle band of protesters and anarchists.
Despite the potential for ugly confrontations, sources at Basildon Council were quietly confident their £8 million operation - £18 million if the police presence is included - was better placed to succeed than on September 19 when the emergency injunction was approved.
Dozens of activists have returned to the site in the hope of taking part in the 'Battle of Basildon'. One shouted: 'This time it's war - bring it on.'
Protesters have sent out emails and text messages to sympathetic friends in an attempt to increase their numbers.
But the number of supporters inside the site has fallen from more than 100 a month ago, when the council was first expected to begin the clearance, to fewer than 50 now. A similar number of travellers remain in their homes.
They failed in a final farcical attempt to have the eviction stopped in the Court of Appeal.
Dozens of bailiffs arrived at a compound neighbouring the site for last-minute preparations. Two diggers and a crane were on standby.
At a nearby police compound, van loads of officers had been arriving throughout the day.
At the earlier meeting, the council said it had only intended to discuss health and safety, not to negotiate.
Campaigner Gratton Puxon said: 'We raised health concerns about a number of residents, including one who needed medical attention last night.
'We also tried to discuss how elderly travellers will be able to access legal homes, which will stay, if roads and hard standings are destroyed. As things stand the council will not budge and can move in at any time and there is no hope of a resolution.'
Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: 'We now believe that those who want to leave peacefully have already done so and those who are left have made it clear that they have no intention of co-operating with the council.
'Resistance and violence as some are now suggesting will be in nobody's interest - especially not the travellers or their families. We now must get on with the difficult job of clearing Dale Farm in as safe and dignified a manner as possible - and that is what we will now do.'
The clearance of 54 unauthorised plots, home to about 80 families, follows a decade-long row over the development of the green belt site.
Last week the travellers lost a High Court bid to stop the eviction and on Monday they were refused the chance to appeal against the ruling.
Len Gridley, 52, who has spent a decade fighting for the travellers to be evicted from land at the bottom of his garden, said he was cautiously optimistic that the clearance would start soon. 'I think they might actually have reached a point where it could happen but until I have waved goodbye to that last caravan I will never be sure,' he said.
'We have been at this point already before and then the travellers have another trick up their sleeve so we shall see.'
Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy added: 'The lawyers say this is the end. We'll have to fight the bailiffs off. We're already in lockdown.
'The memory of Dale Farm will weigh heavily on Britain for generations - we are being dragged out of the only homes we have in this world.
'Our entire community is being ripped apart by Basildon Council and the politicians in Government.'
Mr Ball condemned the violence.
He said: 'The pre-meditated and organised scenes of violence that we have already seen with protesters throwing rocks and bricks, threatening police with iron bars and setting fire to a caravan are shocking.
'These are utterly disgraceful scenes and demonstrate the fact some so-called supporters were always intent on violence.
'Nonetheless we are going to press on with this operation with our partners in a safe, dignified and humane way and will uphold the law.'
Comment: When an army of heavily armed police show up to bulldoze the homes of 100 families to the ground and you respond by "throwing bricks", the only "pre-meditated violence" in evidence is that organised and conducted by the state.
Lily Hayes, a human rights observer, said: 'Basildon Council are violating the court order by smashing in the walls of a fully legal plot on the Dale Farm site. They are also acting unnecessarily brutally.'
Resident Nora Egan said she told police they were not entitled to break down fences, which are legal.
She said: 'This is being led by the police, there is no sign of bailiffs.'
Margaret Sheridan also claimed she was injured. 'They're rough and there is no reasoning with them.'
The battle to reclaim the site has been ongoing since the 1960s when small numbers of travellers began to settle alongside the Dale Farm site, part of which was authorised as a scrapyard.
By the 1990s the encampment had grown to 37 plots which had been authorised by the council.
But problems began in 2001 when travellers began to set up more pitches on adjoining green belt land. It was at this point that objections began by local residents and the council began legal action.
Negotiations began but by 2005 the travellers were ordered to leave the site as Basildon Council voted to bring enforcement action.
By 2011 a lengthy legal battle between the High Court and Court of Appeal had been carried out.
The entire saga is estimated to cost taxpayers an estimated £22million - or more than £250,000 to shift every traveller family on the site.
Comment: That is extraordinarily high expenditure for eradicating such a small community. What is the British government's real purpose here? To show what happens to any group which considers living outside the narrow parameters laid down by the State?
Basildon Council who are part-funding the eviction are having to knock £7million off their budgets. They have allocated £8m to removing the travellers.
Hiring bailiffs Constant and Co is costing the authority an estimated £2.2million and it is predicted that a further £1.5million will have to be spent returning the site to greenbelt land, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Once the eviction is complete a further £1m will have to be spent giving the Dale Farm residents temporary housing. Separately, Essex Police are spending an estimated £12.5million removing the travellers. The Home Office is expected to fund just under half the policing bill.