Training camps for more than 500,000 soldiers in the First World War on Cannock Chase are set to be unearthed this summer.
The scale model of Belgian battlefield the Messines Ridge was used by the British Army to train soldiers from the UK and abroad for fighting on the Western Front. The model, based on aerial photography, covered the size of a tennis court. The camps on the Chase were dismantled when the guns fell silent, but the remains are some of the most complete Great War archaeological sites in this country. The project, due to start in August, aims to reveal more about Staffordshire’s involvement in the First World War, and act as a reminder of the sacrifice made by thousands of troops in Flanders and northern France. Part of the scheme will focus on the removal of scrub and bramble from a surviving area of barrack blocks close to the White House car park. This will be followed by interpretation of this part of the camp as part of the Great War commemorations. The major part of the project however, involves the careful excavation, recording and reburial of the Messines model which was designed by Commonwealth engineers but was probably built by German Prisoners of War in late 1917. Staffordshire 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.” The interpretation of the Messines model and training camps will be based at the Marquis Drive Visitor Centre. It is hoped from there, visitors will be able to experience an actual or digital model of the Messines trench system, and understand how they were used to prepare the troops for battle.