the 1914-1918 war broke out, there was a need to find accommodation
New Army. In many areas,
and transit camps were established for troops leaving for, and
returning from, the battlefields in northern France. One of these
the village of Fovant, in Wiltshire and its neighbours Compton
Chamberlayne and Sutton Mandeville. The villages and the fields
in the shadow
of the chalk downs became a military camp, complete with barracks,
a hospital, parade areas, shooting practice ranges, a camp cinema
and YMCA huts. A military railway was constructed to serve the
camp, branching off the main line railway from London to the southwest
of men from all parts of Britain and overseas lived for a
while in the area, passed on to
the Western Front and
returned from it. Many never returned but gave their lives on the
battlefields in France. Others died of their wounds in the hospital
or from disease. Rows of silent War Graves in Fovant and other nearby
churchyards are testimony to their presence. In remembrance of their
colleagues, many of the regiments carved into the hillside replicas
of their cap badges. Many of these no longer survive, but by the
end of WW1 there were some twenty discernible badges.
workers from Fovant and the surrounding villages, supported
by Regimental Associations maintained the Badges after
WWI. During WWII, the badges became overgrown in order
to disguise landmarks, which might assist enemy aircraft.
Weather and time, as well as the effects of grazing cattle,
caused decay. After the end of WWII, the Fovant Home
Guard platoons formed themselves into an Old Comrades
Association and undertook the task of restoration. It
was in the period of 1948/51 that the two Wiltshire regimental
badges were cut and in 1970 the Royal Signals badge was
1961, the Old Comrades Association was reformed as ‘The
Fovant Badges Society’ with redefined, more positive objectives
related to the maintenance and preservation of the Badges and the
holding of the annual Drumhead Service. The Society became a charitable
organisation and in 1994 adopted a new constitution, which governs
its operation and objectives; these are the preservation and maintenance
of the Regimental Crests cut on the chalk downs.
Society was determined, aided by much public and international
interest, that the Badges should
remain an historic, fitting and
truly visible memorial to the soldiers who passed through Fovant
and its neighbouring villages on their way to the Great War, many
never to return.
2000, there were only twelve discernable badges on the downs.
A new management structure was put in place and, in consultation
with professional civil engineers, a survey of the condition
of the badges was made. It appeared that the Fovant Badges
were unique in their detail and posed difficult restoration
problems relating to the slope of the hill, the complexity
of design, and their sizes. These vary; the Australian Badge,
the largest, measures 51m x 32m, which is just under half
the area of a football pitch.
Trustees, faced with a potential bill of £350,000
upwards for restoration and large annual sums for increased maintenance
thereafter, realised that the task facing them had to be brought
to realistic proportions. They decided, with much sadness, that
the objective should be the restoration and maintenance of the
crests on Fovant Down. These are clearly visible from a lay-by
in Fovant whilst passing along the A30 road between Shaftesbury
Wilton. There is also a public footpath from the road to the village
of Broad Chalke, which passes by the area of the Badges. This inevitably
meant that the Map of Australia on Compton Down and the crests
of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the 7th Battalion, City
Regiment on Sutton Down would continue their decline. These badges
would, in addition, have posed intractable problems because of
the nature of the ground and their more advanced state of decay.
the YMCA badge on Fovant Down would be allowed to fade away.
the badges lay on open private farmland, with the movement of cattle
unrestricted, it was clearly
essential that large
expenditure had to be used with good effect. A crucial first step
was, therefore, to ensure the long lasting protection of the Badges.
In co-operation with the farm owners, application was made to English
Heritage to have the Badges scheduled as Ancient Monuments. Scheduling
was granted in 2001 by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport
placing all twelve badges, including those not being restored, under
the protection of the government.
estimated cost of the more limited objective was £220,000
and a national appeal was formally launched at the annual Drumhead
Service in July 2001. The response to this was very positive and
sufficient sums were assured by the end of 2001 to allow work to
commence in 2002. Work experience by contractors, Dean and Dyball
Construction Ltd, Ringwood, and favourable weather in 2002 allowed
more work than anticipated to be done. This led to five badges being
restored in 2002 and the remaining three (including the Royal Signals
Badge who undertake their own maintenance and restoration) were completed
appeal has been successful. We are enormously grateful to our
many benefactors – too large to name them all - but special
mention must be made of the significant support given by the
Heritage Lottery Fund, the Daily Mail And General Trust,
the Pilgrim Trust, the Clothworkers’ Foundation, the
Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Salisbury
District Council. And also to the very many private donations
from throughout the country.
Badges were originally constructed by cutting outlines into the
rough tussocks of grass down to the
underlying soil using
such tools as were available in 1916. Chalk from external sources
was then hauled manually from chalk dumps and used to fill in the
before restoration - section through large
problems involved work being carried out on a hillside
that sloped at about 30 degrees and where a combination of
grass, chalk and rain makes for a hazardous working environment.
All chalk hills suffer from surface soil movement or ‘creep’.
This causes ridges to develop above and below the horizontal
chalk outlines and distorts the view of the badges from the
A30 road. These so-called ‘eyebrows’ had to be
Existing chalk on the Badges was removed to a depth of 150mm, stabilising
the slope where necessary using geotextile materials together with
one metre long metal rods, and replacing the excavated areas with
compacted new chalk. On a large badge this required handling about
50 tonnes of chalk out of and into the site. As each badge is restored
it is fenced to prevent cattle damage which had occurred in previous
restoration of the eight military crests on Fovant Down was
completed by the end of June 2003.
that is not the end of the story. The annual cost
of maintenance is above the current, and projected future,
of the Society. If we cannot achieve the necessary level
of funding to carry out effective annual maintenance work
then the long-term existence of these memorials as visible
emblems on the Downs must be in doubt.