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Restoration in the 1950’s

The Map of Australia was comprehensively restored in the early 1950’s having been allowed to grow over during the Second World War along with the other nearby Badges at Fovant and Sutton Mandeville in case they provided landmarks for enemy aircraft.

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This restoration attracted much publicity.


Printed in The Times, London, England – Saturday, Jan 27, 1951 and Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, Wiltshire, England – 3 February, 1951:

“‘AUSTRALIA’ IN WILTSHIRE

Many Australians went yesterday, Australia Day, to the Wiltshire village of Compton Chamberlayne, where, in the parish church, they attended the dedication of a flag given by Australia House which was afterwards hoisted above a map of Australia cut in two acres of the downs.  This map was made originally in 1917 by Australia troops. It was renovated recently by members of the Fovant Home Guard Association, which will be responsible for flying the flag on the King’s birthday, Australia Day, Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

A message from Mr E. Harrison, the Australia Resident Minister in London, which was read at the service, said he hoped that those that saw the flag when it was flown would recognize it as a symbol of Australia’s devotion to the Crown and of the indissoluble ties of kinship which bound her to the Mother Country. Mr Harrison’s message was also to the restoration of the badge of the rising sun cut in the downs at Fovant. ‘It should be a constant reminder,’ he said, ‘if one were needed, of the unity of purpose of which exists between the free nations of the Commonwealth and of their determination to stand together as in the past in the defence of their common liberty.’

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An article in The Argus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on Thursday 8th June 1950:

“An Australian ‘Rising Sun’ badge and a map of Australia, which Diggers of the First World War cut in the Wiltshire Downs, are to be renovated. The badge is near the village of Fovant and the map near Compton Chamberlayne. They became overgrown with weeds and the Fovant Home Guards decided to renovate them in appreciation of Australian food parcels.”


The Sunday Times, Perth, Western Australia – Sunday 18 June, 1950:

“RENEWING AUSTRALIAN MEMORIAL IN CHALK

Chalk memorials on Wiltshire Downs will be restored, according to a message received by RSL secretary J. Chappell from England.  Well known to soldiers who served in England in World War 1, the memorials are the badge of the Commonwealth military forces and a giant map of Australia cut into the chalk.  Negotiations with the Australian Govt. earlier this year for financial aid in the task of restoring these memorials were abortive.  Now the committee of the Old Favant [sic] Home Guard Old Comrades’ Assn. has decided to restore the 2 old memorials.”


From The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia – 11 January 1951:

“Map of Australia which Diggers of World War I cut in a Wiltshire (England) chalk hillside has been restored.  The map, at Compton Chamberlayne, had become overgrown with grass.  A flag given by Australia House will be dedicated in the village church on January 26, and flown at the site of the map every Australia Day, Anzac Day, Empire Day and Armistice Day.”


From The Advertiser, Adelaide, South Australia – Tuesday 16 January, 1951:

“AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS NOT FORGOTTEN

A.I.F types who wallowed in the mud of Salisbury Plain in World War I will be glad to know that they are not forgotten by the locals. While they were encamped near the village of Compton Chamberlayne, they cut a map of Australia in the chalk hillside. Time and grass extinguished the map, which the villagers are now busy restoring in preparation for a dedication ceremony on Australia Day (Friday week).  An Australian officer and an NCO will later climb the hill and break an Australian flag from a mast where it will fly every Australia Day, Anzac Day, Empire Day and Remembrance Day.”


Printed in The Canberra Times, Australian Capital Territory, Australia – Wednesday 24 January, 1951:

“AUSTRALIAN FLAG – DEDICATION

London, Tues, – An Australian flag, to be dedicated on Australia Day, will be hoisted on the site of the map of Australia which Australian troops cut in the downs at Compton Chamberlayne, near Salisbury, during the war. The flag was given by the Australian Government through its Resident Minister in London, Mr E. J. Harrison and will be dedicated in the Parish Church at Compton Chamberlayne at a service on Australia Day.”


Published in The Sphere, London, England – 3 February, 1951:

RAISING AUSTRALIA’S FLAG IN WILTSHIRE

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From The Newcastle Sun, NSW, Australia –12 April, 1951:

“MAP OF AUSTRALIA IN U.K. RESTORED

On Anzac Day the Australian flag will fly over a giant map of Australia, cut in the chalk hillside at Compton Chamberlayne, near Salisbury, England.

The map, cut out by members of the Australian Forces during the first World War, was recently restored by the Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades’ Association. The idea of restoring the map came from local residents who thought it would be a pleasing gesture to Australia for the help they had given, writes Mr Douglas H. Thomson, of Church-st., Newcastle. ‘On Australia Day a ceremony was held there, when the Australian flag was flown,’ Mr Thomson added. Among those who attended were Aussies who were stationed in the district in the first World War. During the singing of the National Anthem a flag party, including Staff Sergeant Elliott of Newcastle, presented the flag for dedication.

The flag, given by Australia House through the kindness of Mr W. J. Langdon, will fly regularly over the map on Australia Day, Anzac Day, His Majesty’s birthday and Remembrance Sunday. Mr Eric Harrison, then resident Minister in London for Australia, said in his message: ‘I venture to express the hope that those who see the flag on these occasions will recognize it as a symbol of Australia’s devotion to the Crown and the kinship that binds her to the Mother Country.’

Money for restoring the map was raised by local subscription.


Printed in the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, Wiltshire, England – 3 April, 1954:

“BADGES IN THE CHALK

Motorists who drive along the A 30 road from London to Exeter, which goes through the chalk downland country of Wiltshire, have been intrigued to see the number of regimental badges which are cut into the side of the downs near Fovant, very much as the White Horse was cut many years ago at Westbury.  These badges have become a feature of the country scene in this area, and have appeared over the years largely as a result of the quartering in the district of many famous British and Colonial regiments in the first world war.

Within a distance of four miles or so may be seen an accurate outline of the map of Australia at Compton Chamberlayne, the badge of the 7th City of London Battalion, the London Regiment and the Royal Warwickshire‘s at Sutton Mandeville, and at Fovant, the badges of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, the Young Men’s Christian Association, the 6th Battalion London Regiment, the Australian Imperial Force, the Wiltshire Regiment, the London Rifle Brigade, the Post Office Rifles and the Devonshire Regiment.

During the course of time the designs become discoloured and overgrown. This may have been desirable during the last war when authority required that they should be camouflaged so that assistance should not be given to enemy aircraft, but since then the work of maintenance has fallen to the Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades Association. This work started by an agreement with the regiments to restore the badges of the 6th City of London Rifles and the London Rifle Brigade. Twenty-three Fovant Home Guard started their work on Sunday, June 12th 1949, and were paid for their services by the regimental associations concerned. By the end of that year the badge of the Post Office Rifles had also been cleaned and in 1950 the Association cut a new badge, the Wiltshire Regiment, which they had worn as members of the Home Guard.

At about that time certain Australians living in England were making efforts to get the Expeditionary Forces badge restored. Someone had the very excellent idea that it would be a nice gesture of gratitude for the kindness of Australian people in sending food parcels during and since the war if the badge were cleaned at no cost to the Australian Government. A local subscription list was opened and the money soon raised. The Australian Press shewed much appreciation of this gesture. At the same time the map of Australia was restored and a flag pole erected in its centre. On Australia Day, January 26th 1951, an Australian flag presented by the Australian Government was dedicated at a service held in the Parish Church at Compton Chamberlayne, and the flag was broken on the hill side flag pole by an Australian serving officer. The flag is flown regularly on special occasions.

At the moment the two badges at Sutton Mandeville, although clearly discernible, are badly in need of cleaning and as soon as funds are available this work will be started. The regiments concerned are no longer able to find the _______ of maintenance.

These badges are a me________association of many British and Commonwealth regiments with Wiltshire. The Fovant Home Guard Association shoulders a tremendous task in maintaining them in good condition, but it is obvious that they cannot also find the expenses inseparable from their work. The Hon. Secretary of the Fovant Home Guard Association, Mr Laurence Combes, has compiled an interesting little booklet containing the story of the badges, illustrations and brief histories of the regiments or associations represented. The booklet with the title “Badges in the Chalk” is now on sale almost everywhere at 1/6 in aid of the maintenance fund, and Mr Combes will be most grateful for any donations, however small, sent to him at the following address: “The Honorary Secretary, Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades, Fovant, near Salisbury, Wilts.”

We commend this fund to all our readers everywhere.”


From The Times, London, England – Wednesday, April 21, 1954:

“DOWNLAND BADGES, WILTSHIRE RELICS OF TWO WORLD WARS

Ten miles out of Salisbury on the road to Exeter you pass through the village of Fovant and there can see, on the Downs rising steeply to the south (that is, to your left), a white rank of Army regimental badges cut in the chalk. They are not very ancient features (two are in fact only a few years old and the rest date from the middle of the First Great War) but in the eyes of at least the Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades, who have for some years tended them, they are much more than a local curiosity; they are a national possession.

During the 1914-1918 War there were many camps around Fovant where thousands of men of the Territorial and the New Armies, with troops also from Australia, did their training before going to the fronts overseas. The reserve battalion of the London Rifle Brigade in 1916 first had the idea of cutting their regimental badge in outline on the hillside. Volunteers in plenty came forward to do the work in their off-duty time and they were so successful that other units soon followed their example. Among them were battalions of The Royal Warwickshires, The Devonshires, the 6th City of London Rifles, the 7th London, and the 8th London (Post Office Rifles) and also certain “Aussies” and the Y.M.C.A. unit serving in the camp area.

HARD WORK AND EARLY

Arduous work it was on the steep slope. Moreover, the hillside was in the danger zone of the rifle ranges, which were in constant use form daybreak to dusk, so that in the summer the volunteer labourers had to rise betimes and work from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., before the firing parties arrived. The first job was to mark out the badges to scale; the next, to remove the turf, after which the depressions had to be filled with chalk dug from neighbouring pits (for the natural chalk within the outlines lay too deep to be exposed simply by taking out the turf). A former sergeant of the 6th City of London Rifles who was in charges of the party of working on that regiment’s badge has recalled that it took them three months to finish the job and that the height of the badge was 150 feet. He has related also how at the end of each morning’s toil the lads would toboggan down the slope on their shovels.

After the war and the departure of the troops the badges began to be overgrown by turf and weeds, but some regiments paid local workers to keep their emblems clear. The Australian Government also showed great interest and sent an annual sum for the maintenance of the so-called “rising sun” badge and a large figure of a kangaroo. But when war came again in 1939 the maintenance work had to be stopped and the hillside features were soon almost obscured by overgrowth and the tracks of grazing animals.

RESTORING THE CRESTS

With peace once more some of the regimental associations concerned thought about the restoration of their badges on the Downs and in 1949 members of the Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades’ Association began work on the crests of the L.R.B., 6th City Rifles and the Post Office Rifles. In the next year the Fovant men cut out a new badge, that of The Wiltshire Regiment, which they had worn during the war in the Home Guard, and in 1951 the badge of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was added. During the same period, as a gesture of appreciation to the Australian people for their kindness in sending food parcels during and after the war, a fund was raised locally for the restoration of the Australian badge and also of the great map of Australia cut into the downs at Compton Chamberlayne, near Fovant.

Last year it was found that, although most regiments had been able to pay for restoration, they could not find funds for regular maintenance of their badges and it is largely with the object of raising some of the necessary money that a booklet has been written about the whole subject, including histories of the regiments commemorated, by Mr Laurence Combes, obtainable for 1s. 6d. from the Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades.”


A Plea to the Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, Australia – Saturday, 20 November, 1954:

“AUSTRALIA IN CHALK

Sir, – The huge chalk map of Australia in the Fovant Hills, outside Salisbury, which was dug by the A.I.F. when training in Salisbury during World War I, has almost disappeared. The chalk base has become covered with soil and vegetation, and all that remains is a straggling white outline re-dug from time to time by folk with more enthusiasm than knowledge of Australia.

New Zealand has an excellent memorial in the Bulford area, where N.Z. troops were stationed – a large white Kiwi dug in the chalk hillside, with “N.Z.” under it, well cared for and plainly visible.

Salisbury is an historic city, attracting thousands of overseas visitors each year. I am sure that many of my fellow Australians will join my plea that Australia restore the historic map. I suggest that the outline be pegged by a surveyor and permanently marked – say in granite – to avoid error in re-digging the chalk base; that under it “Australian Imperial Forces 1914-1918” be similarly outlined and dug, and that the whole be maintained by Australia in perpetuity.

Marjorie O’Brien London.


From The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia – 22 May, 1974:

“THREAT TO AUSTRALIAN MONUMENTS

Lack of funds is threatening the existence of a unique piece of Australian military history in England. It is a piece of history admired by dozens of Australian visitors every year who make a surprise discovery when motoring to the English West Country and Cornwall.

Cut out of the chalk hills near Salisbury is what must be the largest existing map of Australia anywhere in the world, created by Australian soldiers encamped in the Nader Valley in Wiltshire during World War I. Also cut out of the chalk is a giant replica of the rising sun emblem of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces which stand among chalk cut-outs of many famous World War I British regimental badges. All these famous and spectacular cutouts are now threatened with extinction because of the problems of maintenance and the lack of funds. Some of the cutouts, including a giant Australian kangaroo motif, have already disappeared under the encroachment of vegetation.

Maintenance has always been voluntary after continued failure to have the British Government accept national responsibility. Only after another 40 years when the replicas are 100 years old, will they become eligible for official preservation as “ancient monuments.” Twenty years ago Australian expatriots in England tried to get Australian Government support for the maintenance of the cutouts, but without success.

‘The badges need continuous care to prevent decay’ says Mr L. Bradford, honorary secretary of the Fovant Badges Society – which has accepted responsibility for looking after the cutouts. ‘It is getting more and more difficult to get people to help with this work. Most of the members of the society who once did the work are now getting too old.’

RISKY

The Nadder valley was one of the biggest military camps in England during World War One. Many Australian soldiers trained in the valley. More than a hundred are buried in the Fovant churchyard. It was the soldiers’ idea to cut out the chalk emblems, and it was often a risky business. All the hillsides were in constant use as shooting ranges, and the cutters had to stop work before dawn when each day’s shooting began.

Each emblem took three to four months to complete. The earth and turf were first removed and the cavities were filled with chalk dug from nearby pits. The natural chalk proved to be too deep to be simply exposed. The emblems were preserved between the wars but work was stopped during World War II when the authorities feared the marks might be useful landmarks for enemy aircraft. The region was dotted with airfields during World War II. It was not until the early fifties that the massive job of restoring most of the cutouts was completed.

On Australia Day in 1951 a flagpole was raised in the centre of the chalk cutout of the map of Australia. An Australian flag is still raised on the flagpole each Anzac Day by local members of the Fovant Society.”


Printed in The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine – Wednesday 16 July, 1975:

“LOOK WHAT’S CHALKED UP

Few Australians have heard of the Fovant Badges Society. But everyone in Fovant, a village in Wiltshire, England, knows about Australia, as our troops trained there in World War I, before going to France. When men from the London Rifle Brigade cut their regimental badge into the chalk hillside in 1916, the Australians decided they wouldn’t be outdone. They worked for months in their own time to carve out their Rising Sun. Pleased with the job, they went on to carve a giant map of Australia in the nearby village of Compton Chamberlayne. Today the badges are maintained by the Fovant Society.”


From The Times, London, England – Saturday, February 22, 2003:

“A military badge carved into the chalk of rolling English downland lacks the obvious charm of a white horse or a long man, and its bellicose overtones might seem out of place in such a setting. But, with their First World War connections, five of the badges etched into the hillside along the A30 near Fovant in Wiltshire have become part of the national heritage and are scheduled as ancient monuments.

Hand-dug into a back-achingly steep slope of between 20 and 40 degrees and measuring up to 150 ft across, they represent hundreds of hours of gruelling work by soldiers in 1916-1918 who were based at a training and transit camp around the villages of Fovant, Compton Chamberlayne and Sutton Mandeville. Ostensibly, the badges were done in the men’s “spare time”, which, at least occasionally, meant the 4am to 7am shift, but, as they were bound for the Western Front, they were probably only too happy for hard physical labour to distract their thoughts.

The cluster of carvings is said to be the largest in Europe. Unfortunately many of the badges represent military units that no longer exist or have been incorporated into other units. The badges (which were added to in the 1950s and again in 1970) were maintained until recently by the muscle power of local volunteers, organized by the Fovant Badges Society.

Now, professional help has had to be called in, and, with the benefit of newspaper-in-industry sponsorship, a £70,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and other donations, a major renovation is under way, due for completion this summer. Thereafter, the Fovant Badges Society faces an ongoing campaign to raise the £15,000 a year needed for maintenance.”

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