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Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Bulford Kiwi War Memorial

The First World War ended on 11 November 1918. However, for many of those involved, it wasn't all over immediately simply because the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Leaving aside the wars that festered on or sputtered up in Russia, Turkey and elsewhere, large numbers of troops found themselves serving as occupation forces, or simply waiting around for months waiting to be demobbed.

A specific case that interested me is that of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. These men had come from the other side of the world, not seen their families for years, and now hoped to go home. Instead, many of them were first obliged to conduct an arduous winter march into Germany to ensure the peace held, and then forced to sit in southern England long into 2019 for ships to be found to transport them.

 
The Bulford Kiwi as it was then.
(We took a bunch of photos of how it looks now - 
- haven't had chance to download them)

This is a phase of the (post-)war that I knew nothing about until I learned of the Bulford Kiwi. After a minor riot at Sling Camp in Bulford, one of the things done to keep the New Zealanders busy and improve the troops' morale was to construct a war memorial by cutting the figure of a kiwi into the chalk hillside above the camp. Here in UK we have a charity called the War Memorials Trust dedicated to monitoring the condition of war memorials and to assisting with their renovation or restoration where necessary. It turned out that WMT did not have the Kiwi in its records. I therefore spent a day volunteering for WMT, helping to inspect, photograph and record the Kiwi, as well as some other memorials nearby. The results of our work are here.

For anyone who'd like to learn more, there is a newly published book by Colleen Brown, "The Bulford Kiwi: The Kiwi we left behind", which relates the history of the Kiwi and the events surrounding it in wonderful detail.