One day in 1917, the commander of an ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) brigade camped at Codford, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, looked out of the window of his headquarters at Stockton House. He thought that he might leave a memento of the passing of his men by having a chalk figure, like the ancient White Horses, carved on the hillside opposite. But, it wouldn’t be a horse; it would be the familiar ANZAC ‘Rising Sun’ cap badge, on which the Sydney Harbour Bridge is said to be modelled.
Of course, in those days, he didn’t need, as modern commanders do, to conduct a Risk Assessment, or run his ideas past the Budget Manager. He just said ‘Let There Be …’ and there was!
So, men of the 3rd Training Battalion, AIF, were soon at work cutting the figure in the hillside. But, at first, they didn’t just expose the underlying chalk. Their badge was bronze, not white, so they embedded empty beer bottles into it. Maintenance of the figure was often carried out as a punishment by the defaulters, so it became known as ‘Misery Hill’ … the official name is Lamb Down.
The figure can easily be seen today from the A36 Salisbury to Warminster road. But, it’s a bad place to stop, and rather hazardous to walk along. There is a car park and viewing area at Stockton, near where Brigade Headquarters was, but it’s rather far off, and doesn’t make for good photography.
Now, you’ll note, in the following paragraphs, I say ‘I went’ rather than ‘You should go’, as I’m not sure if the lane I used is a public right-of-way or not. I don’t want to be accused of ‘incitement to trespass’ But, I don’t want to be held responsible for a lot of corpses on the verges of the A36, either!
So, I climbed up Malmpit Hill, a tarmacked lane leading out of Codford. There were gaps in the hedge to the right that afforded some excellent views of the carving. There’s a track to the right at the top of the hill, leading right to the top of the carving, but it isn’t really worth it. The carving isn’t recognisable from this angle, and there’s nothing up here to tell you what it is, or how it came about.
To find that out, you should go to the ANZAC War Graves, outside St. Mary’s Church, in Codford village. Here, you’ll find an information board, which will tell you about the figure and the cemetery.
If you want to see the carving, but won’t be in Wiltshire any time soon, you can see it clearly on Google Earth, at 51°09’13.50“N 2°01’28.16″W