The ‘Bulford Kiwi’ a large depiction of the famous antipodean bird, carved in the chalk on Beacon Hill above Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire has been given its annual refresh.
The huge bird which measures 130 metres (420 feet), was declared a scheduled monument in 2017, meaning it is recognised as a nationally important archaeological site and is now protected from destruction or change.
It was carved by soldiers from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) who were waiting to return home following the end of World War One.
it is a reminder every day of the thousands of NZ soldiers who sadly never made it home. LT HARRY SHILLEY
Lieutenant Harry Shilley, Officer Commanding Mons Troop, 249 Gurkha Signal Squadron (249) explains why it was so important for them to get involved:
“The deep-rooted ties with both 249 and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) through the Kiwi are long-standing, and it is something special to have that association. The links to the NZEF forebearers makes the monument a memorial too, and it is a reminder every day of the thousands of NZ soldiers who sadly never made it home.”
After the war had been won, the New Zealand soldiers still in the UK decided to leave their mark on the countryside before they returned home. Perhaps inspired by local hill figures, they carved a kiwi, an iconic symbol of their homeland, into the chalk of Beacon Hill.
Adds Lieutenant Shilley:
“249 share the name with the former Squadron back in 1980 which, under Major Danny Fisher, completely regenerated and restored the Kiwi. It was an honour to meet Danny on the day, along with his dog, named Kiwi. You could see how much it meant to him. It is so important to maintain that unique and special heritage we share with the NZDF and continue to cultivate it moving forward.”
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) partnered with their training estate management contractors Landmarc Support Services, the New Zealand High Commission, local conservation groups, volunteers from NZAF, 249 Gurkha Signal Squadron, part of 3rd (UK) Division and members of Operation Nightingale to restore the impressive carving.
As part of the project to ensure the historic significance of the kiwi is preserved, an RAF Chinook helicopter delivered 100 tonnes of chalk, which was then raked into place by volunteers from the partner groups.
With the 2023 Rugby World Cup taking place and the ‘All Blacks’ in action, it is worth noting the connection between the soldiers who created the Kiwi and the ‘Trench All Blacks’ – a team of soldiers from New Zealand who won ‘The Somme Cup’, a special rugby division for those fighting in the war.
The soldiers who created the monument fought alongside the ‘Trench All Blacks’ during the Battle of Messines – often regarded as one of the most successful battles of the war.
Richard Osgood, DIO’s senior archaeologist and co-founder of Operation Nightingale, said:
“DIO is responsible for looking after 772 scheduled monuments across the MOD estate – dating from the pre-historic era right up to the Cold War."
“Although the Bulford Kiwi is one of the youngest, being constructed in 1919, it is of national and international importance, given its association with the Armed Forces of New Zealand. This annual re-chalking reinforces the bonds between our countries and reminds us of the sacrifices made in the First World War.”
The fact that it was made by New Zealand soldiers waiting to go home after the First World War just makes it special. Then knowing I’m involved in restoring it, it’s just awesome to be honest FLT LT JAMES PATRICK
Flt Lt James Patrick was at the controls of the Chinook helicopter, a special task for him as a pilot on an exchange programme from New Zealand:
“It’s only since I came over to the UK on the exchange training programme that I found out more about the Bulford Kiwi – I did know there was a chalked kiwi in the UK, but that was about it. I’ve flown over it a few times, which is interesting because it looks totally different from the air than it does from land.”
And he adds:
“The fact that it was made by New Zealand soldiers waiting to go home after the First World War just makes it special. Then knowing I’m involved in restoring it, it’s just awesome to be honest."
"The soldiers who made this were fighting with the British forces on the Western Front, and I think that is important for us to remember. We have these relationships and things like this are perfect for us to keep up those bonds.”
Shannon Austin, the New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner, said:
“What a fantastic day it has been meeting and working with so many dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. The Bulford Kiwi is well loved and has a long history that links the UK and New Zealand."
"It has been a real pleasure to be involved in helping to protect and restore this significant monument.”
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