Hi, I’m Richard Osgood and I’m DIO’s senior archaeologist. Part of DIO’s role is to look after the MOD estate and we do a lot of work to preserve and protect monuments and sites of historical and scientific interest.
Last year I wrote a blog about the restorative work we were doing on a Kiwi carved into the chalk on Beacon Hill above the town of Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
Soldiers from New Zealand 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 First World War to commemorate their achievements during the battle. This is perhaps one of the most unusual First World War monuments on Salisbury Plain and restoring the monument helps us remember those who served over 100 years ago. The Kiwi is 130 metres (420 feet) high and has been a much loved monument locally, nationally and internationally.
The affectionately termed ‘Bulford Kiwi’ 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.
As part of the continuing restoration work that we carry out on the Bulford Kiwi we’ve recently re-chalked it – it was the first time in 30 years that the kiwi has had a proper make-over. What a fantastic day that was!
The process of re-chalking the kiwi involved a lot of people, teams and organisations including Operation Nightingale and Breaking Ground Heritage veterans, it certainly challenged our logistical brains. After the kiwi was cleared of excess scrub a Chinook helicopter, expertly flown by the RAF, placed (or rather dropped!) 50 tonnes of chalk onto the kiwi using one tonne bags. The bags were filled with chalk from a chalk pile which had been excavated as part of the Army Basing Programme work to provide facilities for troops returning from Germany. DIO’s industry partner – Landmarc – helped with the task of filling and moving the bags.
Once the chalk had been ‘placed’ on the kiwi a team of volunteers including people from the DIO, 3rd (United Kingdom) Division Signal Regiment, Landmarc Support Services, Operation Nightingale and other local and conservation groups helped to spread it. It was definitely an ‘all hands on deck’ experience! Fortunately the weather was on our side on the day so the task of chalk spreading was an enjoyable one.
The High Commissioner of New Zealand joined us in our work, complete with national and local press who came to cover the story! It was a brilliant day and everyone was delighted with what we had achieved in just seven hours, we are all really impressed with how great the kiwi now looks.
It was great to see so many volunteers working together and putting in a lot of effort to get the kiwi looking its best again. This is a great example of the work that DIO does to protect and maintain the many historic sites throughout the estate, and demonstrates how working together really does make a difference.