First World War badge cut into hillside by soldiers in 1916 brought back to life by £32,800 National Lottery grant
Thanks to National Lottery players, a military badge cut into the hillside by soldiers in the First World War is being restored in time for the Armistice Centenary. The ‘Shiny Seventh’ was the nickname of the 7th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment. In 1916 they cut the shape of their badge – a flaming grenade – into the chalk downland above the camp where they were training. In a letter to his family, Eric Marchant wrote:
Dear Dad …
We are expecting a grand bust-up here on April 5th when the 3/7th celebrates the first anniversary of its formation. I rather expect the good brown beer will flow freely and we shall very likely have some lively scenes. To commemorate our stay here to posterity they are cutting a big grenade 20 feet long on the side of the downs with a grass ‘7’ left in the centre of the ball. (IWM Documents.12054)
Soldiers who trained with the Shiny 7th at Sutton Mandeville took part in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme, suffering heavy losses at the Butte de Warlencourt in October 1916. Eric Marchant became a Second Lieutenant with the Essex Regiment and was killed leading his platoon at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917. The Shiny 7th badge at Sutton Mandeville helps commemorate all those who trained at Sutton Mandeville before heading off to the Western Front.
Although the badge of the Shiny 7th was looked after for many years, it eventually became overgrown and all but invisible. Now, a grant of £32,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) means the badge is being restored. It will take its place back alongside the First World War badge of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which was restored in 2017 also with support from the National Lottery.
Restoration of the two badges has been the initiative of Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust (SMHT), set up in 2014. The Trust has a team of volunteers that work on the hillside to clear vegetation and maintain the badges. However, the main phases of restoration require assistance from specialist contractors Earlcoate Construction, based in the New Forest. The hillside is very steep, so a honeycomb mesh is being dug into the hillside to prevent new layers of chalk from slipping.
The method of restoration has been agreed with Historic England because both badges are protected as Scheduled Monuments. Historic England also helped with surveys and advice and supported the grant application to HLF.
As well as restoring the Shiny 7th badge, the HLF grant is enabling SMHT to conduct more research into the history of the training camps in Sutton Mandeville, including what happened to them after the First World War. There are all sorts of stories relating to the camps, which SMHT is keen to record. The HLF grant also means that SMHT can work with more young people to help ensure that the story of Sutton Mandeville’s First World War badges and camps is carried well into the future.
The Shiny 7th badge is visible from the A30 between Wilton and Shaftesbury, and from the network of rights of way in Sutton Mandeville. The whole area forms part of Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the two badges together are a fitting memorial to the important role that this area played in the First World War.
For further information, to volunteer, to make a donation or become a member of Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust, please get in touch using our contact details.