A cottage, a chalk badge, some ANZACs and an ‘Old Contemptible’.
I went to look at a prospective new house at the weekend. It was a lovely cottage that is older than America, in a pretty village called Codford, nestled in the Wylye valley. The place we looked at was lovely, a bit too near to the main road, but that is by-the-by. I was with my family and the kids wanted to have a run about, so we walked up a hill that went behind and above the aforementioned cottage and within a few minutes were surrounded by farm land and confronted by a remarkable view of the Lamb Down Chalk Badge!
The Lamb Down Chalk Badge dates back to around 1917. During this time the Wylye valley, due to its good rail links and close proximity to Salisbury Plain, was home to a network of training and transfer camps for thousands of ANZAC troops waiting to move out to France. The Australian Brigade Commander of the nearby garrison wanted to leave behind a visible Australian mark on the English countryside and came up with the idea of carving out a Rising Sun badge in the chalk hillside.
The initial work was started by the 13th Training Division AIF and the original badge was embellished with buried bottles of green, brown and clear glass to make it shine bronze-like. Maintaining the badge became a regular method of punishment for the troops and as a result the slopes upon which it is carved out earned the nickname ‘Misery Hill’.
The carving remained untouched until WW2 when it was covered over to stop enemy planes using it as a navigation aid. After the war, most of the glass had sunk in to the ground or had been washed away. The chalk outline is all that remains today. But it is still pretty spectacular.
As well as being a transfer and training hub, Codford also had a camp hospital, and walking around the village we quickly came across a Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery. There are almost 100 military burials in this cemetery all of them I think are ANZAC troops that must have died from the wounds whilst recovering in the nearby hospital. Sadly it seems these graves and the chalk badge are all that remain to remind us of Codford’s contribution to the Great War.
Along with this CWGC headstones, there are also a handful of civilian graves, including one very simple grave of Albert Shephard, who died in January 1958 aged 72 and was, according to his grave marker, an ‘Old Contemptible’ (a member of the original British Expeditionary Force that went over to France in 1914). Initial research on ancestry shows up only 1 man of this name that served with the BEF and who was in France in 1914, and he served with the 5th Lancers as a Sgt, landing in France on 15th August 1914, before being transferred at some point to the Labour Corps.