ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed surprises at the site of a World War One model battleground created almost a century ago in Cannock Chase.
Excavation of the Messines Model near Brocton Coppice finished at the weekend, more than two weeks after archaeologists and volunteers began work on the site.
They have been unearthing a scaled terrain model of a section of the Western Front, created in 1918 to train members of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade based at the Brocton training camp.
The model represented the Messines area in Belgium, the site of a decisive victory for the brigade in 1917, and included the village, trenches and battle lines. German soldiers from the nearby prisoner of war camp assisted in the construction of the model, which was so detailed it included a pocket watch in the model church’s tower.
The excavation project involved local historians and volunteers, Staffordshire County Council, professional archaeologists and members of No Man’s Land, a team who have been involved in Great War archaeology in sites in Northern France and Belgium.
Not only did they finish the dig a day ahead of schedule, but their work threw up some unexpected finds including the foundations and hearth from a hut used in the 1930s by site caretaker Ernest Grocott, senior archaeologist Martin Brown said.
“We didn’t think we would get any British trenches but one area includes the Allied Line,” he said.
“Everything has been dug by hand; on a site this fragile we couldn’t use machinery. On the busiest excavation day we had 30 people involved and we have had great support from staff at Jaguar Land Rover.”
The site was also visited two weeks ago by New Zealand military advisor Lieutenant Colonel Mike Beale who is helping coordinate his country’s Great War centenary commemorations.
Lt Beale said: “It is incredible to see the scale, perspective and detail of the Messines model and this is a fantastic example of how the Great War can be commemorated.
“The importance of the local support can’t be understated and seeing so many people working here to uncover the history of the site is moving.
“We can see cobbled roads, the dimensions of the trench system and the topography of the land.
“The Messines model shows the level of training was quite high; and how the instilling of drilled tactics and techniques helped the troops achieve their objectives.”
The model, which is approximately two tennis courts in size, will now be recorded using a laser scanner.
If left exposed to the elements it will disintegrate, so it will be covered up later this month with a breathable membrane, a layer of inert sand to prevent intrusion from plants and animals and top soil to return the site to a natural appearance.