Excavation of Messines Model, Cannock Chase

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Date:September 2013

Description:Archaeologists and volunteers working on the excavation of the Messines terrain model at Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase. It is a scale model of a section of the Western Front during World War 1. The model was excavated and surveyed for Staffordshire County Council by No Man's Land Great War archaeology between 2 September and 2 October 2013 and has since been recovered to protect the fragile remains.

Other similar models were used in Flanders to instruct troops in advance of an offensive, however the one on Cannock Chase is thought to be the only surviving example of a Great War terrain model. Beyond can be seen the huts of Brocton Army Training Camp.

The model represents the village and environs of Messines in Belgium. The village occupying a ridge in the generally flat Belgium landscape formed a strategically important point in the German defensive line. The Messines Ridge therefore had to be captured to enable a wider campaign in the Ypres region and as such it was the scene of fierce fighting in 1917 . The battle included the assault and capture of the village of Messines by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) and the Messines model was constructed by members of the NZRB on their return from Belgium. The model served as a teaching aid but also as a memorial to one of the most successful offensives of the Great War.

The model is known to have survived during the inter-war years when it became a tourist attraction with a custodian who acted as a guide to the site . With the out break of the Second World War and the return of military training on the Chase the site became overgrown and eventually became buried.

The monument itself is a three dimensional representation of the town of Messines and its surrounds, depicting the situation at around the end of May 1917, before the final bombardment of the town in advance of its storming. The topographic or, more properly in military parlance, terrain model includes a range of features intended to represent the Messines battlefield.

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Donor ref:Messines Excavation201 (37/32852)

Source: Staffordshire Museum Service

Copyright information: Copyrights to all resources are retained by the individual rights holders. They have kindly made their collections available for non-commercial private study & educational use. Re-distribution of resources in any form is only permitted subject to strict adherence to the usage guidelines.