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Two UK Sites Protected to Commemorate NZ Losses at Messines

Large Kiwi chalk figure in Wiltshire commemorates lives lost and sacrifices made by New Zealand troops in First World War

Terrain Model of Messines in Staffordshire - an accurate scale model of the battlefield which now survives as archaeological remains - also protected as a scheduled monument to mark important role New Zealand troops played in the war

Almost 10% of New Zealand’s population fought overseas in the First World War

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To mark the centenary of the Battle of Messines, the Bulford Kiwi, a large white chalk figure carved by New Zealand troops into the hillside above Bulford Camp, near Stonehenge, has been protected as a scheduled monument by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Image of the Bulford Kiwi from the air. Image courtesy of Historic England.

The chalk Kiwi stands 420 feet high (130m) and has a 150 feet (46m) long beak. It was created by New Zealand soldiers stationed at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire at the end of the First World War while they were waiting to go home. It commemorates the lives lost and sacrifices made in the war.

Some 100,000 troops representing almost 10% of the New Zealand population fought in the First World War. The Battle of Messines (7 June – 14 June) was a well-planned and executed attack on the Western Front near the village of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium and New Zealand troops played a significant role in this battle. It resulted in the capture of the Wytschaete-Messines ridge south of Ypres, a feature that was important to hold for future offensive operations in Flanders and began with one of the heaviest artillery bombardments of the First World War and the explosion of 19 giant underground mines.

A second monument, known as The Terrain Model of Messines in Cannock Chase in Staffordshire which survives as archaeological remains has also been granted protection on Historic England’s advice. It was an accurate scale model of the battlefield created by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade to celebrate the important victory at the Battle of Messines and to train new recruits at Brocton Camp. It was constructed by German Prisoners of War using soil, concrete, bricks and pebbles to capture every detail of the town, surrounding farms and natural features as they were on the night before the battle began.

The model became a popular tourist attraction following the dismantling of the camp at the end of the First World War, but it became neglected and was lost until it was recently excavated, studied and recorded as the only known model of its type. It was covered over in order to protect it from damage or erosion and there are plans to mark the site as part of a heritage trail to celebrate the significant achievements of both the battle and the model that it inspired.

Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing at Historic England said: "These two monuments pay tribute to the bravery of New Zealand's fighting forces in the First World War and we are delighted that they are now being protected for the future. The Bulford Kiwi was cut into the chalk at the end of the war by Kiwi soldiers themselves, to mark the presence of their forces in England, and their achievements at the front.

Roger Bowdler continued: “It is an incredibly touching sight, and a moving tribute to men who lost their lives far from home. The taking of the Messines ridge was one of the war's most stirring attacks, and this model lay-out remains as testimony to the planning which made possible the victory. Like so much of our historic environment, these lasting reminders enable us to connect with lives and events from the past that made us who we are as a nation. One hundred years on, it is right to remember New Zealand's valour.”

Sir Jerry Mateparae, New Zealand High Commissioner to the UK said: “It’s fantastic to see Historic England protecting two very significant sites of huge importance for New Zealand. The special connections that were forged 100 years ago, with communities in the UK where New Zealanders trained, are still strong today and it’s moving to see these sites protected for generations to come.”

New Zealand Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Maggie Barry said she’s pleased two such significant sites are being protected in this way. Maggie Barry continued: “As we mark 100 years since the Battle of Messines and reflect on New Zealand’s contribution to the First World War, we also look forward to future generations going to Wiltshire and Staffordshire to see where New Zealanders trained. Protecting these two sites will also help preserve the legacy of the New Zealanders who trained there.”

Gill Heath, Cabinet member for Communities at Staffordshire County Council said: “Staffordshire played a vital role training troops during the Great War and we’re incredibly proud to have such a valuable and nationally important heritage site right on our doorstep. It’s truly wonderful news that the site has been given such important status. The discovery and recording of the Messines terrain model was particularly special and, as a rare example of its kind, it is right that it is recognised as being of national significance. As custodians of this important landscape and its history, we will continue to remember the work of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and its role in the Battle of Messines as well as the many British units who trained on the Chase.”

Updated on 5th July 2017