Excavation of the Messines Ridge Model

The archaeological excavation of the Great War model of the Messines Ridge, built at Brocton Camp



In September and early October 2013 the remains of the Messines Model was excavated on the site of Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase.

The mock up of the village and surrounding area of Messines in Belgium was built as a training aid for soldiers. It was also maintained as a memorial to soldiers who died in the Battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917.

The model was built by German prisoners of war, supervised by troops from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, on their return from Messines in 1917.

The model was "Entrusted" to the Commander of Cannock Chase Reserve Centre, Major-General Wanless O'Gowen. The military finally returned the land to Lord Anson in the early 1920s (i.e the model remained under military control).

Staffs County Council took over ownership (due to double death duties in Anson family) of the land in 1958.

The model included replica trenches and dugouts, railway lines, roads, and accurate contours of the surrounding terrain.

After WWI it became a tourist attraction before becoming deserted and overgrown.

There are reports of local schools and scouts clearing weeds from the neglected model in 1921.

The site is fragile, and because of it's size and location it is impossible to move.  After excavation the site was laser-scanned, then re-covered to protect it.  The scan will be used to create a 3D computer model of the site.

The model is about half the size of a football pitch - 40 yards by 40 yards.

These two adjacent images show the site of the model now and shortly after it was completed in 1918. A few of the huts making up Brocton Camp can be seen in the background.

The site was completely overgrown and lost to view prior to the dig.  The site was rediscovered in 2007