TRUSTEES of groups who have restored historic chalk badges in south Wiltshire from the First World War welcomed a special visitor from Australia.

Major General Anthony Rawlins, the deputy chief of the Australian Army and members of his staff visited the Map of Australia chalk badge and the Fovant Badges during a trip to the UK on Wednesday, November 13.

The visit was organised by Lieutenant Colonel Ben Passmore, who is the Australian Army UK Liaison Officer and also a trustee of the Map of Australia Trust.

The Major General met Helen Roberts and Tim Butler, trustees of the Map of Australia Trust and was able to view the chalk badge from the fields which held Hurdcott Camp.

Helen said: "It was an honour to have such an important visitor such as the Deputy Chief of the Australian Army take time out of his busy schedule to visit us. Major General Rawlins was genuinely touched by the efforts our local communities make in keeping the story of the Australians in Wiltshire during the First World War alive."

The Map of Australia was carved into the downs during the First World War by Australian troops stationed at Hurdcott Camp.

It had faded from view but was restored by volunteers of the Map of Australia Trust last summer.

The party then moved on to see the Fovant Badges and Major General Rawlins met with trustees of the Fovant Badge Society and the landowners.

He learnt all about the badges and the camps which stretched from Compton Chamberlayne to Sutton Mandeville. The camps were constructed in 1915 as the need for more training facilities became apparent following the advent of the New Army, often referred to as Kitchener’s Army, which saw 2.5 million men volunteer for service.

All three camps were later home to soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force for both training and convalescent purposes and two badges, the Map of Australia at Hurdcott near Compton Chamberlayne and the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces badge at Fovant, were carved into the downs by the Australians.

Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust and Fovant Badges Society have also restored lost badges in recent years, the 7th City of London and The Royal Warwickshire badges at Sutton Mandeville and the YMCA badge at Fovant, meaning four badges dating back to the Great War are now back, visible again on the downs.

Following his visit to the badges, Major General Rawlins laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Compton Chamberlayne where 28 soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force are buried, most of them having died of respiratory related illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

A total of 104 Australian graves are located in the villages of Compton Chamberlayne, Barford St Martin, Baverstock and Fovant.

Morning tea was served in Compton Chamberlayne village hall, a surviving First World War camp hut, where Major General Rawlins and his staff were able to meet volunteers who restored the Map of Australia chalk badge last year. The Major General was able to thank the local communities for all the work they undertake in order to keep the memory of the Australians alive.