It is thought that the first badge, cut in 1916, was that of the London Rifle Brigade. Naturally, other regiments, not to be outdone, quickly followed suit and the hillside blossomed with regimental badges and other chalk images. By the end of World War I there were some twenty badges on the hillside. This number declined over the interwar years and in WW2 they were all covered because it was thought that enemy bombers could use the badges as a waypoint. After WW2 only five badges survived. The Fovant Home Guard decided to restore the badges after their burial and built two new badges (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry and The Wiltshire Regiment) regiments to which the Fovant Home Guard were attached.
The Fovant Home Guard morphed into the Fovant Badges Society the charity that currently maintains all the badges. In 1970 a further badge was cut by serving soldiers, that of the Royal Corps of Signals, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Corps’ foundation.
In the run up to the Centenary of WW1 the Fovant Badge’s Society decided to mark the Centenary of the first badge being constructed with the construction of a new badge. Research indicated that the first badge was probably the London Rifle Brigade’s badge which was constructed in 1916. The Society asked its Publications and Publicity Officer, Richard Bullard, who then lived in Fovant, to project manage this task. Concurrent with the, what was called, The Centenary Badge Project, the Society also wanted to encourage younger people to become involved with the Badges story. Southampton University History and Archaeology Departments were contacted and became involved in the project. A successful application for funds was made to The Heritage Lottery Fund and the project then progressed rapidly. Historic England were also contacted to seek permission to build the Centenary Badge.
Southampton Universities help was invaluable with local history projects involving undergraduates and local schools raising awareness of the badges. The Archaeological Department played a crucial role in the project. Ground radar was used to check that the location of the Centenary Badge would not disturb any underlying archaeology. Meanwhile Richard Bullard contacted Fovant’s resident artist and well-known designer Rupert Williamson to progress the design.
Both Richard and Rupert favoured a peace theme with, ideally, some input from the German Bundeswehr and the British Army. Rupert progressed the design with sketch ideas, a dove, carrying a a laurel to a poppy and including the two dates 1916 and 2016 framing a poppy symbol which has such significance throughout the UK and beyond. This was presented with photomontages of the badges on the hillside
Richard and Rupert decided to make a full size (around 25m square) series of templates from white polythene sheet that would be placed on the hillside to mark where the turf should be cut.
The summer of 2016 saw over 50 various volunteers, including serving soldiers of the Royal Corp of Signals, local people and not so local people all working on the hillside cutting the shallow trenches and then dragging bags of chalk down the hillside to fill the trenches. It must be said though that the bulk of the work was completed by 15 or so staff and undergraduate students from Southampton University Archaeology Department. During this work, several artifacts were discovered by the students. Interestingly, the various scans of the interior of the Chiselbury Ring suggested that a series of round houses were located within the bank and ditch enclosure, so humanity have been up on that hill for some time!