THE Fovant Badges stand over the south Wiltshire countryside as a permanent reminder of the First World War.
And their presence is particularly poignant in the year that we mark the 100th anniversary of the start of a conflict that cost 16 million people their lives.
As part of the commemoration of this milestone in history, the Fovant Badges Society, which is charged with preserving this important marker of our heritage, has organised a symposium entitled War, Landscape and Memory in the Twentieth Century.
The event will see historians speaking on a range of subjects relating to the badges, the war and the wider impact of conflict.
One of these will be Southampton University graduate Mike Nixon, whose thesis for his masters degree from Birkbeck, London was on the history of the badges.
He said: “There is a lot of focus on the western front and the trenches, when in reality a large part of the war was fought on home soil, in that the training was here.
Tens of thousands of soldiers came to Salisbury from around the empire.”
“This local monument can be used as prism to explain the wider historiography,” he added.
The Fovant badges were carved into the hillside by soldiers to represent the cap badges of the regiments with which they served.
Some of these badges did not survive much past the end of the conflict in 1918, but those that remained were later restored. Two Wiltshire regiment badges were cut in the years immediately after the Second World War while the badge of the Royal Signals was added in 1970.
Another speaker at the symposium will be Ross Wilson, senior lecturer in modern history and public heritage at the University of Chichester, whose published work includes Landscapes of the Western Front (2012) and Cultural Heritage of the Great War in Britain (2013).
He said: “Men recruited to the Western Front used graffiti to make their mark on the places they saw, which relates to the badges.
“They may have felt a great attachment to the regiment they served and they also wanted to leave their mark on the world, particularly in a situation where their bodies could be obliterated by shellfire. This is tangible, material evidence of a conflict and a unique way of understanding it.”
War, Landscape and Memory in the Twentieth Century will be held at Salisbury Museum on Wednesday, May 7 from 10am to 5pm.
For more information and full details on speakers go to fovantbadges.com.
To register to attend the event contact Richard Bullard on 01722 714782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.