A MODEL of the Western Front built in Brocton to help troops achieve one of the most successful offensives of the First World War is being temporarily excavated.
The scaled terrain model was built by German prisoners of war at Brocton Camp in 1918 and is the only surviving replica of its kind in the country.
The model represents the town of Messines in Belgium and its surrounding landscape. In 1917, the Messines Ridge formed part of the strategic German defensive line and was a high point which overlooked British and Dominion positions.
Men from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were involved in the assault and capture of the village in June 1917. When they returned to their Reserve Battalion depot at Brocton Camp they had the scaled replica of their sector of the battlefield built to serve as a training aid and as an act of commemoration.
With the outbreak of the Second World War the site was used as a military training camp and the area became overgrown and eventually buried.
Staffordshire County Council, in a project funded by Natural England, is excavating the model so it can be photographed and recorded before being re-buried. Work begins next week.
Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins said: “With the approaching 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, it seems the right time to excavate the model to ensure that the legacy of the men who served at the camp lives on for years to come.
“We see ourselves very much as custodians of the land and of the memories it holds and this is a wonderful opportunity to bring the site back to ‘life’.”
Archaeologists have carried out exploratory work and it is hoped that much of the model, which included replicas of a church and other buildings, remains largely intact.
It was rendered in concrete and has fossilised railway lines, trenches and roads. It was used to train soldiers in map reading and to show how an impeccably planned battle could be won with minimal casualties.
Once the site is fully exposed details will be photographed and recorded before it is preserved by being reburied in mid October.
Philip added: “Due to the location, scale and fragile nature of the model it is impossible for it to be moved or left uncovered, but for a brief moment in time we all be able to share with the nation, memories of a piece of Staffordshire which helped change the course of history.”