April 5th 2016 is the centenary of the Shiny 7th badge cut into the hillside in Sutton Mandeville. It was made to celebrate the first anniversary of the formation of the training battalion of the 7th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment, i.e. the 3/7th. Work started on the badge in late March 1916 in time for ‘a grand bust-up’ on 5th April when the ‘good brown beer’ was expected to ‘flow freely’.
We know these details from a letter written by Eric Marchant to his Dad, which is held in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. The section from his letter, dated 31 March 1916, reads as follows:
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. I think it will look very effective when finished. Capt. Head is in charge and Bowen is one of the digging party.
Eric Marchant trained with the 3/7th in Sutton Mandeville through the spring and early summer of 1916. He subsequently became a Second Lieutenant in the Essex Regiment. Sadly, he was killed leading his men on the first day of the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917. His letters to his family give a tremendous insight to life at Sutton Mandeville in the First World War.
Quotation from the papers of Second Lieutenant E L Marchant courtesy of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum.