Ellie Harrison presents a special remembrance edition of Countryfile looking back at places that have been shaped by war.
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No part of Britain was left untouched by war.
In every corner of the land, its effects were felt.
The countryside was transformed as hundreds of thousands
of acres of farmland was given over to the war effort in two world wars.
In this special Remembrance edition of Countryfile, I've come to
a sleepy part of Wiltshire where its impact was felt more than most.
It wasn't always this quiet.
If you were here during the First World War,
it would have looked quite different.
You'd have seen tens of thousands of soldiers and training grounds
and barracks and military camps spread out in all directions.
And you'd have seen something extraordinary,
something to put this part of the world on the map -
the Fovant Badges.
They were carved into the hillside around the village of Fovant
by soldiers stationed here during the First World War.
For many of them, this would be the last of England they saw.
I'll be learning the story of these badges
and I'll be adding a new one with a little help.
It is steep!
We'll also find out how the Great British countryside has
played its part during times of war and times of peace
as we look back through the Countryfile archives.
Here's just some of what we've got in store.
Matt's on manoeuvres deep in the Surrey countryside
with Sandhurst's newest recruits.
The platoons are now 1.3 miles into the course
and they've been carrying these stretchers now for just over a mile.
We're going to stand out the way!
-Julia gets a big surprise halfway up a Welsh mountain.
-Are they Gurkhas?
And I'm taking to the Wiltshire skies for a bird's-eye view
of something very, very special.
Oh, my goodness, what a beautiful view!
The Fovant Badges sit on a hillside near the village of Fovant
just a few miles south of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
The first of them was carved out in 1916.
Of the original 20, only eight remain.
They're looked after by fellows like Tony Pinder
of the Fovant Badges Society.
Wow, up close, it's really impressive.
The size of it is hard to gauge from down on the ground.
Why were they originally carved, Tony?
They were created, initially, by the men who were waiting to go to France
to leave their mark on the countryside before they went.
Many of them never returned. So they are, in fact, war memorials.
They are registered by the Imperial War Museum as war memorials.
-It must have been hard work making them.
-Very hard work.
There's a misconception of how they were made.
A lot of people felt that by just removing the turf,
you were left with pristine chalk, which wasn't true.
They cut out the outline of the badge,
dug out some of the soil and had to pack it in with good chalk
that they had to dig out further away.
About 50 tonnes a badge.
It took a team of 30 soldiers,
an average of six months to build each one.
They remain a moving tribute.
Why is it so important that these are maintained?
Well, because they are, as I say, war memorials and they should be
kept in pristine condition if possible,
because they are here to remind people,
who drive past or fly over it,
of the sacrifices given for this country by those
young men waiting to go to France.
Camps like Fovant were vital to the war effort.
But they had to be big enough
for the thousands of soldiers posted there.
Land, and lots of it, was key.
The British landscape still plays a huge part in training
as Matt discovered when he hooked up with some trainee officers
being put through their paces at Sandhurst.
Sandhurst is the home of the Royal Military Academy.
There's been a military college here for over 200 years.
The list of ex-cadets is a real Who's Who.
From the explorer Chris Bonnington to Winston Churchill.
Even Princes William and Harry trained here.
So we're talking the real top brass.
700 cadets come through the gates each year
to be trained as officers in the British Army.
And before they leave, every single one of them will get to know
this landscape really well because this is their training ground.
THEY SHOUT ENCOURAGEMENT
I'll be seeing more of that training in a little while,
but first I'm off to find out about life as a trainee officer here.
Life at Sandhurst revolves around the spectacular Old College,
built in 1812.
Over 700 or so officer cadets, male and female,
all live on site during their year-long course.
As well as being their home,
it's also where they learn leadership skills and tactics in the classroom.
But it's out here on the 1,400 acres of heathland
that surrounds the academy
that officer cadets are put through their practical paces.
Is it what you expected it to be?
Yeah, there's a lot of sleep deprivation.
That's the main thing, I think. But, no, it's been OK, I think!
-Not too bad!
As well as training, this landscape is also the venue
for serious competition - a gruelling endurance race,
that's part of the annual contest to find the best platoon.
Every cadet will have done this in his time at Sandhurst.
It's over six miles, over the common, uphill, down dale,
Those who are yet to come will always be told this is
the worst possible thing that can ever happen to you.
It'll take them about an hour, probably, of good, hard sweat.
The race starts at dawn.
First, the three platoons face a straight run from the base
onto the heathland.
THEY SHOUT INSTRUCTIONS
The platoons are now 1.3 miles into the course
and they're carrying these stretchers now for just over a mile.
We'll stand out the way cos they don't stop!
The makeshift stretcher weighs 60 kilos
and each platoon has to stay together for over a mile
and deposit it at the top of the hill.
Then, there's a recovery period -
a one-mile march, which has to be covered in 13 minutes.
Keep it tight! We're on camera.
The next load is an 11-foot long log.
THEY SHOUT INSTRUCTIONS
Go, go, nice and quick now.
You can hear all the guys screaming, with those that are carrying the log.
Because they've got a rope around it, they have to keep in front of it.
The most important thing is to keep that momentum going.
It's a crisp and cold autumn morning.
For the cadets, it's also going to get wet.
Get your ropes sorted.
THEY SHOUT INSTRUCTIONS
Safely through the bog and up the hill, it's back down to base.
In front of Sandhurst's New College,
the final team make it home, cheered on by the other platoons.
with the new recruits at Sandhurst training in the great outdoors.
Back in the First World War,
the landscape played a part in training too.
Thousands of acres of farmland, including here at Fovant,
were requisitioned for the purpose.
Edward Williams farms this land today.
He lives with a legacy of the camp.
The railway line used to cut across and went from here right
through to the trees in the distance.
When the crops grow, in the summer when we get dry weather,
they're usually two to three inches lower because there's no moisture
and the ground is all full of clinker and it doesn't grow.
Now the badges sit on your land, how do you manage that as a farmer?
They're just grazed during the summer months. They're so steep.
How do you keep the cows off the badges?
Ten years ago there was a big campaign
where a lot of money was spent on them
and they've now all been fenced out so the cattle can't roam on them.
So they have to be strimmed every year now to cut the grass.
It's lovely to see that the cows are still there.
That makes it all working.
-It still has to be farmed, it still has to be managed.
Farming is all to do with management of the countryside.
Today, the badges are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
That doesn't mean you can't walk right up to them, though.
But the best view, I reckon, has to be from the sky.
More about that in a while.
First, here's Adam discovering how land workers played a secret role
defending our country back in World War Two.
In 1940, Britain was preparing itself
for an almost certain Nazi invasion.
WINSTON CHURCHILL: Hitler knows that he will have to break us
in this island or lose the war.
With the Germans drawing closer, Churchill wasted no time
in preparing a new kind of defence weapon.
It was an invisible army, codenamed the Auxiliary Units.
Its members were pledged under the Official Secrets Act.
All were trained to obstruct, confuse and kill the enemy.
This was "Dad's Secret Army."
These were local men from farming
and rural backgrounds that were specially chosen to form
a secret underground organisation that no-one was to ever know about.
For years, the existence of these men was a closely-guarded secret,
which was only made public two decades after the war.
David Blair has been researching the lives of the units that were
set up on the east coast of Scotland.
-David, you work for the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
What sparked your interest in this subject?
I've got a military background.
I was with the parachute regiment for a number of years.
I have an understanding of the type of work that these men did.
Why were they called Auxiliary Units?
Auxiliaries were a cover name.
There was a lot of auxiliary units during World War Two.
You had auxiliary firemen, ambulance personnel and various other
home defence forces that came under the auxiliary umbrella.
There were around 3,500 men in these units
placed at strategic points around the UK.
In Scotland alone, there were about 500, a lot from around Fife.
Many of the chosen men were from rural backgrounds.
They were tough, used to the outdoors and had daily jobs
which allowed them to wander about without attracting undue attention.
I'm a farmer. I can't imagine what it must have been like signing up
for something like this.
Think of the dark days of 1940 when invasion was imminent
and the threat was very real.
These guys were at the forefront of the defence
of this country in some respect.
One of these men was Bob Wilson, a farmer's son from Fife.
Bob was already a member of the Home Guard,
which was the public face of British resistance.
Over a million men volunteered their services for the cause.
I was approached by a friend and a member of the Home Guard,
who was actually a captain in the Home Guard in St Andrews.
He approached me and asked me
if I'd be interested in joining a group that was being formed.
I, of course, being young and silly and daft agreed to take part in this.
-How old were you?
-I was 17 at that time.
Farming was a reserved occupation during the Second World War
and whilst his friends went off to join the Army, Bob,
like many others, stayed behind to feed a hungry nation.
However, he was also training for his own war.
It was pretty grim.
We were all armed with knives and revolvers
and all this sort of nonsense.
To prepare for an invasion,
operational bases were dug underground for small groups of men
containing ammunition, sleeping quarters and an escape tunnel.
How difficult was it, as a 17-year-old, to keep that a secret?
Well, I found it very easy.
We told no-one.
No-one knew about it, not even my parents.
They knew I was going out somewhere
and doing something with the Home Guard, but nothing else.
They didn't know a thing.
Do you think it was important that people from the land were
being chosen to do this because of their understanding...
Aye, it was easy for us, really. We knew the countryside.
We knew the area like the backs of our hand.
These guys are reenactors, bringing the past to life.
Is this how Bob remembers it?
Does this bring back memories?
Yes, it does in some respects.
But most of our time was spent on our stomachs or our hands and knees,
crawling about, rather than patrolling as these lads are.
But it's very realistic.
If I was a German looking for you,
you'd have killed me before I'd seen you, would you?
-You'd like to think so.
Well, it could have been, but it could have been the other way round.
-He may have seen me first. Who knows?
-That's the scary thing.
As the invasion never materialised,
many of these men went back to their daily jobs.
Some, like Bob, joined the Army.
Sadly, they were never given any official recognition.
But as their stories start to unfold,
we're finally learning a bit more about these secret heroes.
I'm looking at the story of the big military badges
near Fovant in Wiltshire.
But what of the soldiers who made them. What were they like?
There are many poignant reminders all in the soldiers' own hands.
Local historians, Liz and Mike Harden,
are the custodians of this moving record.
-"News and views from Fovant Camp." That's incredible.
-It is incredible.
Inside these comical camp silhouettes, it says.
Making light of the situation. Hilarious.
"Dear friend, just a few lines before I go.
"We are going to some warm climate as we have got sun helmets.
"Yours truly, Malcolm."
This one says, "No leave this week. Rotten, eh? Never mind.
"Better luck next time." Looking on the bright side.
"Love to all, from Arthur."
"They are sending men out very fast now from here,
"from these camps to fill the gaps.
"They are hardly marked as fit before off they go to France.
"I'm anxious for Harry as I've not heard."
Who's Harry and whatever happened?
I found it very sad indeed.
What a poignant card.
It's very suitable at this time of the year to be
thinking along those sorts of lines
because there are plenty of men in that sort of situation now.
Plenty of families.
Many passed through Fovant and on into history.
We remember them and all those who gave their lives in two world wars.
But we remember too those who have given their lives
in recent conflicts
as I discovered when I visited a very special place of remembrance.
The National Forest has brought new life to the Midlands.
It's 20 years since the regeneration project has been running
and eight million trees have been planted.
But within the National Forest there are 50,000 trees
with far more emotional significance than any others.
The National Memorial Arboretum is a centre for remembrance.
Acres of wooded parkland are filled with trees and memorials
predominantly dedicated to those who have
lost their lives in all types of service.
The importance of the National Memorial Arboretum
is it provides a wonderful wooded environment, 150 acres,
where people can wander amongst the trees and memorials
and remember, think thoughts and just be themselves.
The arboretum also serves as a place where people
can congregate for formal remembrance ceremonies.
I'm here on the day that the veterans of the Korean War
are holding their annual memorial service.
It's also a chance to meet up with old friends.
Veteran Frank Shorter was reunited with a comrade
he last saw on the battlefield.
He tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You don't remember me."
I said, "Should I?"
He said, "Yes, you carried me three miles on your shoulder."
-He couldn't walk cos of the bullets in his legs.
I left him at the ambulance and then went back and brought some more out.
That was my job.
Every day I was going through the minefields
collecting wounded and dead and bringing them back.
It's losses like those witnessed by Frank that are represented
everywhere you turn in the arboretum.
The planting is full of symbolism. This avenue is called The Beat.
It honours policemen who have been killed in service.
The trees are horse chestnut
because truncheons were originally made from that timber.
Elsewhere a wood of 2,535 oaks grow,
each one representing a merchant vessel
lost during the Second World War.
Volunteer guide Janti is showing me a garden where every flower
has a poignant meaning.
This is a war widows' rose garden.
There are four recognised stages of grief when you lose a loved one.
So we had the four rose beds here.
The one immediately behind us is all red roses,
which conveys the anger and rage you feel when you lose a loved one.
On our left are purple for despair
and the one over there is pinks for quiet acceptance
and yellow and whites for happy memories
and looking towards the future.
-They're beautifully scented so when we have a warm day,
the scent is absolutely beautiful.
So many people come and they're so pleased to see the loved ones' names
here or on the Armed Forces memorial.
They feel that this person is never going to be forgotten.
Their name is there or on a plaque round a tree.
So they feel that they can move on.
We do support a lot of people who are very upset here.
But we hope they feel better by the time they leave
and it's a bit more definite, what we've been able to do.
The arboretum offers those grieving somewhere to come
and try to find peace.
People can dedicate a tree to someone they've lost -
a living memorial they can visit year after year.
Today, the Webster-Smith family are here to dedicate a tree
to their son Nic.
Nic was killed in 2009 in Afghanistan.
Why did you choose to have a tree here in memory of Nic?
Obviously it's a special place for us because
when you lose a son as we did in Afghanistan,
it's important to remember him.
Here it's not a memorial garden as such,
or a crematorium or a burial ground, it's a place where the nation
can come and visit all those people who've laid their lives down
in service for their country.
This is very, very special to us.
We chose the willow because he was sports mad.
Of course cricket bats come from willow trees. It was perfect for us.
If you look directly behind my back here,
his name's entered on the memorial wall to the left of the pillar.
-So it lines up perfectly.
-You mentioned he was a great sportsman.
How else would you describe Nic?
Just a one-off, totally unique son. Literally loved by everybody.
He had this magic ability of putting everybody before himself.
-It showed right to the end.
I suppose it's so difficult for anybody to imagine
how hard it is to lose a son.
Whereas, coming here, there are other people
who have been through the same nightmare.
You meet people in exactly the same situation.
The thing that's very strange is you never forget that knock on the door.
That's the thing that haunts you for ever.
Then your whole world goes into download, you know.
You have to pick up and try and move on.
You tend to work round the situation.
That's the word we've all agreed as a family.
You can't get over it, it's something so unique.
But every day we get a bit stronger and keep fighting basically for Nic.
That's what it means to us. Yeah.
Dominating the landscape of the arboretum
is the Portland stone Armed Forces Memorial.
On it is inscribed the name of every member of the forces
who has died in active service since the Second World War.
16,000 names have been carved into its walls so far.
I think what surprises me the most
is the sheer number of names that are here
of all the servicemen and women that have died
since the Second World War.
All are people that would have had parents like Jackie and Rick,
who I met today, who will have been heartbroken
and never got over their loss.
Even though I don't understand anything about military history,
this place suddenly feels incredibly important.
Later, in this special edition of Countryfile,
Matt heads to Devon to see how its beaches doubled up for D-day.
It's hard to believe one of the most important military exercises ever
took place here on the waters at Slapton Sands.
I'm getting stuck in with the squaddies building
a badge of our own.
Right, we are top left.
And if you're out and about in the week ahead,
you'll need the Countryfile weather forecast.
What do you do if you've got some of the nation's most important
naval history in your back yard, but you can't get at it for weeds?
You call in special help, as Katie discovered
when she went to Gosport near Portsmouth on the south coast.
This coastal city is packed to the portholes with nautical history.
But it seems some of our most valuable naval history
has been lost over the years under a sea of overgrown brambles.
This is Priddy's Hard, which is a peninsula sticking out
into Portsmouth Harbour.
It was defended in 1757 by this enormous bank and ditch
that we see here, principally to protect
Portsmouth Harbour from bombardment by a foreign army.
Then in the 1770s, they built some enormous gunpowder magazines here
to supply the Royal Navy. So most of the ships at the time,
particularly at the time of Nelson and Trafalgar,
would have stopped here for gunpowder.
From then on, it became the major Royal Navy supply for ammunition.
The area's incredibly overgrown. How long since the MoD were here?
They were last here in 1989.
The site was progressively run down during the 1980s.
They finally left the site then.
Since then it's become completely overgrown with trees and scrub
and is the jungle we see today.
Decades of historical buildings lie hidden on this ten-acre site.
Bill Mansfield remembers when it looked very different.
So, Bill, this is a real trip down memory lane for you.
-This is where you were working for 50 years.
So you were working on all the explosives. Is that right?
Yes, if it went bang, I had something to do with it.
-But it didn't go bang here?
-What were you responsible for?
The ammunition came in and the idea was to take it to pieces,
clean everything up and put it together again.
So that it could go back to the ships.
What do you feel when you look at it now.
-No, it's sad.
-How did it look then?
There was nothing more than about four inches high.
None of the grass or undergrowth because of the fire risk.
Of course, I remember of all the people I worked with.
Some of them were here before the First World War.
There was a permanent gang of a dozen men that just cut grass.
We used to have lovely yarns from them about things that went on.
-So you have a lot of memories from here?
So, what's being done to rescue the site?
Phil Hazel works in the nearby Naval Museum.
He's on the frontline attacking the enemy - ivy.
Phil's uncovered all sorts of buildings using his trusty loppers,
but getting to some of them requires some difficult manoeuvres.
Once more into the breach.
So, you cut through the brambles. My goodness me, what a find.
-What was this used for?
-This was a Victorian shell store.
So it's an ammunition area for the new class of weapons that
were being utilised by ships such as HMS Warrior in the 1860s.
-What did you find when you first came into this room?
-A lot of sand.
We think the sand was used for protecting the air-raid shelters
and Anderson shelters that dotted over 100 acres of weapons site.
With such limited manpower,
cutting back weeds across ten acres is going to take years.
As fast as Phil cuts them down, they grow back again.
But it's not mission impossible because we have a secret weapon
with a natural fighting spirit capable of tackling
the toughest of scrubland.
This overgrown area of Portsmouth doesn't need boats.
Oh no, it needs goats.
-Here we go. Hello. Time to come out.
-Here we go.
You have arrived at your new home. 15 billies to be exact.
This army of four-legged crusaders are being shipped in to chew the cud
currently engulfing our precious naval history.
-So why goats?
-Goats are going to be our maintenance crew, really.
We've got a very small team here
and the site's extraordinarily wild and goats eat anything.
We're hoping they'll eat a lot of the vegetation in here
and start the process of getting this site more easy to maintain
and hopefully we can let the public in one day.
-Do you think they'll like it here?
-I think so. Goats like to climb,
they like to jump and we've got all the undulating scenery.
We've got lots of different things for them to eat, to explore.
They're getting confident already, which is fantastic.
They're good, aren't they?
Come on, goats, follow the man with the bucket and don't eat my coat!
-Ooh, dear, goat in the moat!
-Goat in the moat, fantastic.
-Let's keep going.
-You see how good at climbing they are.
Come on, this way.
Not many people know that goats can climb stairs.
So the plan is, you can see, this shelf is covered in ivy
and you can see Phil, here, lopping away at it.
What we're hoping is, as we chop it down, as we expose it,
the goats will eat the ivy and we can work with them
to really take control of the site.
Do you think this is enough goats?
If the site is how big, ten acres?
To trial, we're going to get them in to start with,
make sure we've got the site secure, see how they take to it,
make sure they're happy and expand the herd.
So we're aiming for about 50, we hope.
Excellent. That'll be quite nice. It won't be so lonely any more, Phil.
When you've got 50 goats to help you.
They'll be good little colleagues!
Follow the man with the goat food!
Here we are.
That was dreadful.
But Nick wants the goats to concentrate
on nibbling sections at a time.
This is an experiment, so which weeds they prefer isn't known.
It's early days, but with any luck, the site will be munched
and licked shipshape soon.
Katie, there, showing that four legs are better than two
when it comes to doing your gardening.
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If you haven't already got yours,
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In a minute, I'll be joining the lads of the 11th Signal Regiment
as we leave our own mark on the landscape.
But first, of all the fighting units in the British Army,
there are few fiercer or braver than the Gurkhas.
So, how would Julia get along with them?
If you love the outdoors, then the Brecon Beacons are a bit of a Mecca.
And you can't come all this way and not get to the highest point
in southern Wales, Pen y Fan.
And the views up here are superb.
It's also very cold and very windy.
But what you might be surprised to see, is this.
Are they Gurkhas?
Gurkhas have a reputation for being fearsome warriors,
coming from Nepal in South Asia, 5,000 miles away from the UK.
The country's home to the world's highest mountains and it's known as the roof of the world.
And these mountains are the closest thing to the Himalayas
in this part of Wales,
offering perfect conditions for training.
So, Major, some people will be surprised to find Gurkhas here in the Brecon Beacons,
but you've actually been here for many, many decades, been based here?
That's right, we've been here since 1974. It's, what, 30 years, now.
Now, the Gurkhas have a very tough reputation,
you are known as being stealthy machines.
-Is that a deserved reputation?
-It is. It is.
And especially, the Gurkhas have been fighting
since they were joining the British Army in 1815.
And they are still in Afghanistan, and in other countries, as well.
-So they're an integral part of our army.
-They are, yes.
Gurkhas are still selected from young men living in the hills of Nepal.
Last year, 13,000 youths competed for just 176 places.
It's said to be one of the toughest training regimes in the world,
which means they'll take the Welsh weather in their stride.
The 135 of them based here in Brecon are some of the chosen few
and I'm keen to meet these famous fighters.
Now, I should either feel very safe being here with all these Gurkhas,
or I should be very afraid, cos you're quite deadly, aren't you?
You don't need to worry about your life
because, honestly, we are here as the Gurkhas.
We will protect you until our deaths.
Oh, I've always wanted to hear that.
Say that again.
Now, the Gurkhas are famous for their knife skills.
-Is it called a cookery knife?
But not a cookery knife as we would know, for cooking.
Basically, as an army, we use this for our second weapon.
Yes, we use it in the kitchen, like chopping up meat.
-It really is a multipurpose knife.
What is it like being here in the Brecon Beacons compared to Nepal?
Being in Brecon Beacons and Nepal?
Ah, it's similar, like, in a geographical way.
It's high grounds and peaceful place.
-But compared to the windy and rainy things...
-And the cold.
-It is different compared to Nepal.
-Would you rather be here or in Nepal?
-I'd rather be in Nepal than here.
-I'd love to be in Nepal.
-Cos it's warmer?
The chilly mountains around the town of Brecon
have been home to the Gurkhas for more than three decades.
With the Gurkhas, come families.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at the local school.
-What percentage of the school are Nepalese?
-At least 25%,
-now, is Nepalese.
-So roughly a quarter?
At least that, if not more.
What challenges does that present?
It can be quite difficult
because some of the children come in with not so much English.
From their point of view, they're coming to the middle of Wales
where it's different from what's happening in Nepal.
And also, for the children to learn how to speak Welsh, as well.
-They've got to speak English, Welsh and Nepalese?
They'll go back to Nepal one day
and be speaking Welsh across the Himalayas.
What impact do you think it has on these young kids
having so many Nepalese young friends?
We are such a multicultural school
and they learn about multiculturalism at first hand.
So, for example, we have the little Mandir,
so our children learn about the Hindu faith.
They go and worship with our Nepalese children.
The Nepalese children go to the cathedral with ours
when we've got to do some work on that.
-So, the Nepalese are well and truly integrated here at the school?
So, what have the children got to say? What do you know about Nepal?
Well, there's lots of mountains,
there's the Hilla... Hillera... Hilleralayas
and there's Mount Everest.
You know a lot. What do you like most about Wales?
-I like the mountains, I like Pen y Fan the most.
I've just climbed up there.
Newton, speak to me in Welsh.
Newton's father, Guman, joined the Gurkhas when he was 18,
serving in over ten countries, including the Falklands and Belize.
He set up shop in Brecon,
bringing a taste of the East to Nepalese and local customers.
What's it like living in Brecon, do you enjoy it?
Yes, I enjoy it very much. Brecon is a very nice place.
Why I like this place is,
you see the mountains, it looks like Nepal.
And the people here.
We have really good relations with the Brecon people
and we always enjoy with them.
Do you think you'll stay here, now, you and your family?
Is this home forever?
Yeah, this is the new beginning. So...
Yeah, I think we'll be here forever.
So, with the community thriving, it's likely the Gurkhas
and their families, will be in this Welsh town for many decades to come.
Back in Fovant, the lads of the 11th Signal Regiment are hard at it.
We've spent the morning shifting big red panels.
You might not be able to see just what it is yet,
but I think the colour gives a big clue.
I'm a local here, and I was quite struck, I always am, by the badges.
And when the boys who put them here in the first place started,
they were going to the First World War, proud of their regiments,
they were keen to fight for their country.
They didn't know what was going to happen.
They came back and those associations they then formed,
eventually became the Legion.
And I thought, how do we say, "What they did then is what we do now?"
And it's exactly the same, comradeship, remembrance,
supporting those who've come back injured and comradeship for all.
It's a very beautiful emblem and it fits brilliantly on the hillside.
You'll have to wait to see the finished thing.
A fitting new addition.
From Wiltshire farmland to Devon coast, now,
where Matt found out how its beaches played a big part
ahead of the D-Day landings.
One of the most important military exercises ever
took place here, on the waters at Slapton Sands.
Codenamed Exercise Tiger,
it was an American naval exercise that was a rehearsal for D-Day -
the world's biggest air, land and sea operation.
It was to play a significant part
in liberating Nazi-occupied north-west Europe
during the Second World War.
The plan was for Allied troops to surprise the Nazis
at five main occupied beaches in Normandy,
one of which was codenamed Utah.
But first, the Americans wanted to practice their attack
and they chose to do that here, at Slapton Sands.
There were two days of landings
and they put, actually, 25,000 troops over this beach
and more than 2,500 vehicles.
So this, then, was their training ground? The kind of rehearsal area.
Why did they choose this spot?
Well, it had been chosen the previous year,
by the late summer of 1943,
and although this has similarities to Utah beach,
it has similarities to Omaha as well, that's not really why it was chosen.
It was close to the major concentrations of American forces
in the great South West.
It was close to the major embarkation ports.
Around Plymouth, Dartmouth is in that direction.
Brixham and Torquay and so on.
And because it was going to be a live firing exercise area,
they would have to move the population out.
In November 1943,
3,000 residents from villages around Slapton Sands were given
six weeks to pack up and move out to make way for the forces.
180 of these were farmers.
Joy Heath was a 21-year-old land girl at the time
and she remembers how farmers reacted to the news
of the evacuation.
Well, they were upset, most of them.
But luckily, they knew most of the people that were taking
the animals, you know?
We were sent helpers and they all helped.
It was like packing the things up.
That was mostly packing up all the provisions and so on.
Every so often, the tractor and trailer would come and take so many
sheep out to Mr so and so. who very kindly looked after them and so on.
What were the Americans like when they turned up?
Well, they were lovely.
They were all so tall and swashbuckling,
just like you see on the films, you know?
They met the girls at dances and things.
-It was all very supervised and whatnot.
The ones that we did meet were exceedingly nice.
They were very helpful.
Very kindly, they distributed candy to the children.
Nylons to the ladies. First nylons we'd ever seen. I didn't get any, actually!
With the area now evacuated,
the American servicemen, armed with live ammunition,
turn to the serious business of preparing for D-Day.
And the carefully planned Tiger exercise began.
But in the early hours of 28 April, 1944, disaster struck.
German torpedo boats had stumbled upon the exercise
and opened fire.
As a result, two American landing ships sank and one was damaged,
leaving over at 700 Americans dead.
It was all hushed up but we didn't know what a scam it was, you see?
We just heard there'd been a little bit of a do out in the bay.
That was it. That was really tragic, you know?
Shockingly, the death toll from Tiger Exercise
was over three times that of the D-Day landings on Utah Beach.
At the time, Reg Hannaford, son of a local butcher, was 13.
What happened was my father and elder brother
were down delivering the meat rations,
and the fishermen there were talking to some American military police.
They were asking the fishermen
if they had seen any bodies in the sea, and that sort of thing.
We didn't know anything about Exercise Tiger
until they brought three damaged landing craft,
and then the rumours buzzed then, of course.
But it was all kept very quiet.
Today, a tank stands just yards from the sea, acting as a memorial
to the US servicemen who lost their lives that night.
And this monument, dedicated to the evacuees, by the Americans.
'On the hillside above Fovant, we're close to finishing.'
It is steep!
'For one day only,
'this new emblem will take its place alongside the famous Fovant badges.'
Are these badges just relics of old conflicts? Are they still relevant?
There are still very relevant today.
Particularly for my regiment, the Rifles,
who have forebears represented on this hillside.
As a young boy, I went to many First World War battlefields,
and the sheer scale of the conflict is seen in the graves there.
And then you see the photographs of the men as they trained
in the UK, the young lads. And today in the British Army,
training young soldiers ready to go out on operations,
you see the same kind of man - 1915 and today -
ready to go and lay it all on the line for Queen and country.
In a moment, I will be getting the best possible view
of the lads' handiwork from up there.
First, it's time for the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
In this special programme, I have seen what a big part our countryside
has played in both war and remembrance. And I've travelled
to the Wiltshire village of Fovant, to see its famous military badges.
I got stuck in helping the lads of a local regiment put up a new one,
but now, I need a lift.
Helping me get aloft for a bird's-eye view is Jonathan.
-Is this what we're flying in?
-It certainly is.
-Nice to meet you!
'Whilst I am getting kitted up to take to the Wiltshire skies,
'He went to Suffolk to find out the crucial role its farmland played'
in World War II.
This farmland in Lavenham in Suffolk
looks like any other farmland you'd see in the British countryside.
A patchwork of fields, sown with winter crops,
and green pasture dying back at the onset of winter.
But if you'd wandered round here 65 years ago,
you'd have been met with a very different picture.
These outbuildings and this land became home to the 487th Bomb Group
of the American 8th Air Force.
Lavenham airfield was built on farmland in the Suffolk countryside
a few miles from Bury St Edmunds.
The Air Ministry was requisitioning land all over the south-east,
as it was flat and close to the Continent,
making it ideal for Allied air bases.
Rural Suffolk changed rapidly.
Where once men and tractors and horses
would have been working the fields,
there were now great caches of aircraft, heavy bombers,
ready and waiting to take the war over to Germany.
Of course, the skyline changed. Hangars popped up, outbuildings,
and of course, the ubiquitous control tower.
Where there was once peace and quiet, now there was an almighty roar.
The bomber at the heart of the American attack
was the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress.
They flew daytime missions and left a big impression on Bill Eady,
at the time, a young farm foreman.
I can see them coming in now, it was like a drove of pigeons.
There must have been some sadness. You'd have counted the aircraft out,
and counted them back.
Well, we knew all these aircraft,
because they all had a mascot painted on the side of it.
And we'd say, "Oh, Shoo Shoo Baby is back",
then we'd look around and we'd say, "No, Spirit Of '69 ain't got back."
You must have felt sorry for these aircrew.
They would go through extreme periods of terror up in the air.
And they'd come back to sleepy Suffolk.
It must have been an odd life for them.
Did they tell you what it was like flying over Germany?
No. When I used to see them jumping out of them aeroplanes
and onto the ground, I'd lie down and kiss the ground.
-Back in dear old England.
There were more than 3,000 airmen stationed at Lavenham,
and many of the buildings they used have survived.
But none are in such good nick as the old control tower.
Look at this place! Look at that!
"Flying control, clearances, enquiries, visiting pilots."
Arable farmer John Pawsey is the current owner.
He was behind the restoration, and is keeping the history of it alive.
-Nice to meet you. What a fantastic view of the airfield!
You can really get an impression of the old airfield.
Where did the runway actually go?
It went from that point, the dark bit of ground,
went straight the way through here, through this open field,
and past the straw stacks into the distance.
It was about 1.25 miles long.
That was the main runway.
They had two other runways,
that went, as you say, making the classical A-shape.
And there were three runways.
Clearly, it had a huge impact on the working life of the farm.
-But farming went on around it.
And actually, if you look at aerial maps of the airfield in the wartime,
you can see farming operations going on.
That was my grandfather's point, that he wanted to stay here
and continue to farm what he could. That's exactly what he did.
The Americans may be long gone from Lavenham airfield,
but this area still plays host to American air bases,
like the one here at Lakenheath.
Lakenheath is one of the oldest and biggest American air bases in the UK.
But just because it's tucked away in a corner of Suffolk,
don't be fooled.
When you walk through the gates here, you are entering another world.
It's a little bit of America, smack bang in the Suffolk countryside.
There are all the familiar comforts needed
to make the visiting personnel feel right at home.
Bill, do you find that many of your personnel who come here today,
in the 21st Century, are able to tap into that sense of camaraderie
that was established between the RAF and the United States Air Force back in World War II?
A lot of the families that are coming over,
a lot of our aircrew, a lot of our...
younger airmen have a basic working understanding
of what went on during World War II.
I suppose, until they wander into the countryside,
they're not quite aware of the...
the scope of how many troops and so forth -
the airfield, the combat groups - that were here.
Cos there was an airfield every... what, every five miles or so?
The really awesome thing
is that whenever you get these younger folks into the countryside,
they're able to see these airfields, the Nissen huts and so forth,
and that's where they make the emotional connection.
And then you see them writing home saying, "Grandpa, I understand you flew a B-17 in World War II,"
and that connection's made.
There is no doubt that the combined Allied bombing campaign
helped turn the tide of the Second World War.
But not without cost.
More than 26,000 American airmen and 55,000 British lost their lives.
And this day, above all days, we remember their sacrifice.
You guessed - that big red badge we spent the day building is,
of course, a poppy -
the universal symbol of remembrance.
A fitting emblem to sit alongside the Fovant Badges.
But this isn't the best view. Oh, no.
For that, I'm hitching a ride with pilot Jonathan Elwes in his vintage Tiger Moth.
First built in the 1930s,
they were the RAF's number-one training aircraft throughout the Second World War.
That was such a gentle takeoff,
I didn't even know we were off the ground.
It feels like how it would be if you could fly in your dreams.
That was amazing!
It's coming right up. The badges are coming up now.
Here they come now. I can see the first badge.
Oh, my goodness! What a beautiful view!
And there's the poppy now, with a few cows around it. Ha, ha!
Wow! That really is enough to make your heart swell.
Such detail you can see from here.
It's almost as if they built them to imagine them from this kind of angle.
That is glorious! And there's that beautiful poppy -
really striking on the landscape.
So meaningful at this time of year.
It's been a memorable day, but now it's nearly done.
That was amazing!
That's all we've got time for
for this special remembrance edition of Countryfile.
Next week, I'll be joining Matt
in Derbyshire's beautiful Derwent Valley.
Hope you can join us then.
Can we go again?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Ellie Harrison presents a special remembrance edition of Countryfile looking back at places that have been shaped by war. She discovers how huge military insignia came to be carved into a Wiltshire hillside, before taking to the skies in a classic British warplane, the Tiger Moth.
Matt Baker heads to Sandhurst to see trainee officers being put through their paces. He then goes to Slapton Sands, where 70 years ago soldiers, sailors and airmen were training for D-day.
Adam Henson finds out about the secret role that land workers had in defending the country during the Second World War.
And Julia Bradbury travels to Wales to meet soldiers with a reputation for being some of the fiercest in the British Army.