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  • Writer's pictureMike Lintott-Danks

The Bulford Kiwi

How do you move 100 tonnes of Chalk up a steep hill to help keep an important monument in pristine condition? Call in the Royal Air Force (RAF) with their Boeing Chinook HC.6.

On the 27th September 2023 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 headed to the hills above Bulford camp to help restore the impressive chalk carving.

The huge chalk Kiwi bird at Bulford, Wiltshire, measures 130 metres, 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.

Photo UK MoD

The RAF Chinook helicopter delivered the 100 tonnes of chalk and dropped the bags onto the Kiwi itself at different places, which was then raked into place by volunteers from the partner groups.

The history behind the Kiwi is that 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. 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.

As special significance Flt Lt James Patrick was at the controls of the Chinook, 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.”

“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.”

It was a great experience to volunteer and help to repair and enhance the Bulford Kiwi.

All quotes are from the British Army interviews.

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