People may not realise that as part of DIO’s duty to look after the MOD estate, we do a lot of work to preserve and protect monuments and sites of historical and scientific interest.
My name is Richard Osgood and I am one of four archaeologists working for DIO. Our role is to protect, maintain and advise on monuments across the MOD estate. This includes supporting excavations on MOD land, ensuring that military training is facilitated through gaining planning permissions and consents and delivering DIO compliance with the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) protocol for the Government Estate.
One recent project we have worked on with the local community has been the restoration of the kiwi carved into the chalk on Beacon Hill above the town of Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Affectionately known as the ‘Bulford Kiwi’, it was created in 1919 by soldiers from New Zealand at the end of World War I. The figure has recently become a scheduled monument, which means it is recognised as a nationally important archaeological site and it is now protected from destruction or change.
Kiwi soldiers based in the UK played a key role in the Battle of Messines which took place in Belgium in 1917. The soldiers carved the kiwi into the chalk themselves in 1919 at the end of the war to commemorate their achievements during battle. It stretches to 130 metres (420 feet) high across Beacon Hill and has been a much loved monument locally, nationally and internationally.
The monument has been looked after by various local groups and companies over the years. Most recently it has been spruced up as part of a community effort to coincide with it being named a scheduled monument by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In September volunteers from Historic England, local conservation groups, the Royal Corps of Signals and the Army Basing Programme (ABP) gathered on the hill to help clear up the kiwi. We had a productive day weeding the surface of the kiwi and clearing up the area to reveal the chalk underneath which gets covered up over time. It was a brilliant day and everyone was quite pleased with how much progress we made in such a short time. Everyone worked together and put a lot of effort in to get the kiwi looking its best again. Even the High Commissioner of New Zealand joined us, complete with a camera crew from a local New Zealand TV channel to cover the story!
We are now working with our colleagues in the ABP to gather excess chalk that has been unearthed as part of works to provide facilities for troops returning from Germany. We hope that the chalk will be airlifted by an RAF Chinook helicopter onto the kiwi as the finishing touch to our restoration of this much loved monument. It has been a brilliant project to be involved in and is a perfect example of the work that DIO does to protect and maintain the many historic sites throughout the estate.