One of the absolute pleasures of podcasting is the chance to speak to passionate and enthusiastic individuals whose determination to preserve the heritage of the Great War is nothing short of inspirational. My guest on this week’s podcast, Helen Roberts, was an absolute joy to interview.
Having grown up in rural Wiltshire, Helen remembered seeing the famous Fovant military badges carved into the side of a hill. The collection of ten military badges depicts the cap badges of various regiments, and it is thought that six of them date back to the Great War.
On a nearby hillside lay a map of Australia, which had been cut into the chalk in 1917 by men of the Australian army based at the nearby Hurdcott Camp. Like the Fovant badges, the map itself had been allowed to become overgrown during WW2 so that it didn’t act as a marker to Luftwaffe bombers. The Fovant badges were restored in the post-war era, but the map of Australia was only preserved until the late 1960s, when it began to decline. Helen was determined that this didn’t happen and started a crusade to see the map restored to its former glory. It took all of Helen’s diplomatic negotiation skills to work with the relevant landowners to gain access to the site, which led to creating a charitable trust dedicated to the preservation of the site. The website for the Trust can be found here: https://map-of-australia.com/.
Talking to Helen, one could not help but be swept up by her incredible enthusiasm for this project, and her excitement at finding out information about the men who lived and worked on the camp shines through in our conversation. Helen has curated a remarkable archive of material, the links to which can be found below:
The extraordinary photo archive of Cecil Green – https://moore.edu.au/resources/cecil-greens-photographs-of-the-8th-training-battalion-aif/
The Ben Edgcumbe Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/benedgcumbe/
You can also see an interview from South News with Helen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-wiltshire-46060246
The Cecil Green photo archive is one of the most remarkable WW1 collections I have ever seen, and it provides a fascinating journey through the life and travels of a Digger and his journey through WW1. Some of the pictures of the massive Hurdcott Camp are quite remarkable.
This interview was great fun to record and I hope that it provides a fascinating insight into a little-known piece of Great War history, whose future is safe thanks to the dedication and foresight of the remarkable Helen Roberts.
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