Cannock Chase Great War Camps

Cannock Chase is the location of War two Great War training camps and RAF Hednesford

 

I occasionally do voluntary work at the Cannock Chase Great War Hut, which is situated just behind the Cannock Chase Visitor Centre in Marquis Drive.

The work consists of opening the hut to allow visitors to look around and to answer questions about the items on display.

I also attend Great War re-enactment events which are centred around the hut and the surrounding area.

To understand the context of the Military Camps on Cannock Chase you need, first of all, to understand the environment.  Today The Chase has a large number of Forestry Commission pine trees.  At the start of the 20th Century these did not exist - The Chase was bleak upland moorland with wide, open, desolate tree-less areas.  Some recruits likened the camps to Siberia or POW camps.

Between 1914 and 1918 two huge Army Training Camps were constructed, each of which were capable of housing 20,000 soldiers at any one time.  During the Great War period over a quarter of a million British and Commonwealth troops passed through the camps on their way to fight in the trenches.  Although the camps have long since been demolished there still remain traces of them throughout The Chase.

Brocton Camp was home to a large accurate model of the Messines area of Belgium.  This was constructed in 1917 by German prisoners of war as both a training aid and a memorial to those who died in the battle of Messines.  The model was initially a tourist attraction, but gradually fell into decay and was buried beneath shrubs and bracken.  In September 2013 the site was excavated - for more information see the page about the Messines Model.

Many of the German, New Zealand and British servicemen who died in the Camp Hospital were buried in the Commonwealth Cemetery.

In 1967 remains of all German servicemen who died in Britain in both World Wars were brought from all over Britain for re-burial in the German Cemetery.

The Chase was also home to RAF Hednesford - the No6 School of Technical Training - during the Second World War.  At it's height it was the size of a small town, including a cinema, three churches, a Jewish Synagogue, A YMCA, a post office and a hospital.

Post-war the camp served various purposes including a demob centre, a recruit training centre, and a refugee camp for Hungarians following an uprising against communism in 1956.

All that remains today are the main roads of the camp and the odd trace of a building.