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Model example of trench warfare to be excavated

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

UNDER CONSTRUCTION . . . The training model being built in 1918

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A MODEL battlefield used to prepare troops for trench warfare is set to be unearthed on Cannock Chase almost a century after it was created.


The Messines model at Brocton Training Camp was an accurate replica of part of the Messines Ridge near Ypres, Belgium, where New Zealand troops captured a section of the Western Front in June 1917.

Constructed in concrete in early 1918, the model represented existing trenches, strong points, railways, roads and buildings and was used to train soldiers - reinforcements from New Zealand who were based on the Chase - in topography and to show how an impeccably planned battle could be won with minimal casualties.

Trench maps and aerial photographs were used to ensure its accuracy.

One part of the model, believed to be a viewing platform around three sides of the model, still exists.

And 99 years after the First World War began Staffordshire County Council is leading a project, funded by Natural England and backed by local historians, to excavate the model site.

Some exploratory work has already taken place but a full-scale excavation is set to start later this year, followed by recording and reburial of the model.

Throughout the process care will be taken to ensure the site is protected during the excavation while minimising any damage to surrounding wildlife and habitat.

Additionally scrub and bramble will be removed from surviving barrack hut bases close to the White House car park on the nearby Rugeley camp.

Afterwards there are hopes to create a replica and digital representation of the Messines model at the nearby Marquis Drive Visitor Centre to help explain to 21st century visitors how the model was used to prepare troops for battle.

More than half a million men had passed through the Brocton and Rugeley training camps by the end of the war.

There was also a camp for German prisoners of war nearby.

County councillor Pat Corfield, cabinet member for culture and communities, said: “As we approach the centenary of the start of the First World War in 2014 it is essential we continue to teach future generations about the legacy of the conflict.

“We must never forget the great sacrifices made and this exciting excavation project will help achieve that and showcase Staffordshire’s role in the Great War.

“As custodians of this important landscape we want to bring the site to life and learn what it was like for men from across the UK and our allied countries, as they trained for trench warfare.

“Staffordshire has as good a claim as anywhere in Britain to be the national focus for the commemoration of World War I.

“The National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas is a national and international centre for commemoration, while the Cannock War Graves cemeteries, the Staffordshire Regimental Museum and many memorials offer poignant reminders of the Great War.”

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