UK

Chalk And Chinook: Military Called In To Conserve Wiltshire White Horse

The task involved a variety of different units working together from across the three services.

The military's Joint Helicopter Command unit has been called in to restore a 200-year-old icon of the Wiltshire landscape.

The Alton Barnes White Horse has presided over the hills there since its creation by a farmer in 1812.

However, it disappeared during the Second World War due to concerns it would be used by the enemy.

"They decided the white horses would be too useful a navigation marker for German aircraft, so an order came down from the War Office that all white horses were to be camouflaged over," volunteer David Carson explains.

"This one was turfed over."

Ten years have passed since it was last chalked, a requirement in order to to keep it prominent, and so local residents decided it was time for another restoration.

With 46 tonnes of chalk needed, and vehicles not permitted on to the site, a Chinook helicopter was drafted in to carry out some of the work.

Its twin rotors and triple hook assembly make it especially well suited to transporting unusual loads.

The surrounding area is characterised by chalky limestone hills.

The aircraft can lift 10 tonnes, but it carried four during each trip to avoid more manpower being needed on the ground.

The operation involved a variety of different units working together from across the three services.

Personnel from Joint Helicopter Support Squadron had to battle 135 mph downwash winds on a steep hill, with minimal visibility as the chalk was whipped up into the air.

They continued into the night, with the next phase of spreading to be undertaken by volunteers from the local community.