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The very model of a modern Major General...

#1
BBC News - Brocton WWI model battlefield excavation to begin

[h=1]Brocton WWI model battlefield excavation to begin[/h]

The battlefield model was built by German prisoners of war on Cannock Chase



An archaeological dig is to take place to uncover a model of a World War I battlefield in Staffordshire which was built as a training aid for soldiers.

The mock up of the village and surrounding area of Messines in Belgium was built in Brocton on Cannock Chase.

It was also maintained as a memorial to soldiers who died in the Battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917.
Staffordshire County Council said after WWI it became a tourist attraction before becoming deserted and overgrown.

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.

'Fragile nature'
It was used as a training ground in the build-up to the much larger battle of Passchendaele which began in July of that year.

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

Staffordshire County Council said it would dig up the site this week and use a laser-scanning device to make a 3D computer model.

The site will be covered over again in October.

Council leader Philip Atkins said: "Due to the location, scale and fragile nature of the model it is impossible for it to be moved or left uncovered.

"For a brief moment in time we all be able to share with the nation, memories of a piece of Staffordshire which helped change the course of history."

The project is being funded by Natural England.
Very good if the 3D computer model will be available to the public and not just archived for posterity.

Were there other similar models?
 
#2
Fingers crossed as I'd love to see this.

My great-great uncle fought in the NZRB at Messines and was then killed on 16 Sep. I've got a copy of the official history of the NZRB (published 1924) and have just checked to see if I can find anything out about this. Unfortunately there is nothing recorded about Brocton for the period between Messines and the end of 3rd Ypres. I do know that Cannock Chase was where their reinforcement/reserve Bn was based so maybe guys were rotated back there to train troops and that is when the model was built.
 

DieHard

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
What would be good would for them to build a replica for kids to learn about how life was over there.
With the renewed interest thats sure to come next year with the centenery of the start of the first world war, it could become very popular and be a very usefull teaching aid.
I am not too sure how far away it is from the national Arboretum, but if it was close enough that could be another place to visit and pay respects

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#4
Were there other similar models?
Yes. There is a photo in the IWM collection showing troops looking at a similar model built near Poperinge.

I wondered about the wisdom of building a model bifg enough for the enemy to see from an aircraft! Though, given that the battle for Messines started with days and days of destruction shoots there can't have been much surprise.
 
#5
There is a set of WWI training trenches above Penally in Pembrokeshire. I spotted it on Google Earth when looking at climbing sites then went for a walk round. Very well built and stil 5-6 feet deep. I think there are similar sets in other places such ass the Moors above Sheffield. There is an old camp opposite that Cadets use. The first time I went you could hear drill commands and it was a bit spooky. The trenches are freely accessible as long as there is no firing on the adjacent ranges.
 

Attachments

#6
Puttees, yes, if you didn't know what they were they would look like random hummocks, but once you are in there you can trace the lines and the saps. The walls are stone clad so I guess they were built once and well and the troops used them and handed them over to the next lot. Looking at the size I'm guessing you could fit a company into it. I was chatting to a couple on the path the other day and they were tourists but had been before and knew what the diggings were.
 
#7
There is a set of WWI training trenches above Penally in Pembrokeshire. I spotted it on Google Earth when looking at climbing sites then went for a walk round. Very well built and stil 5-6 feet deep. I think there are similar sets in other places such ass the Moors above Sheffield. There is an old camp opposite that Cadets use. The first time I went you could hear drill commands and it was a bit spooky. The trenches are freely accessible as long as there is no firing on the adjacent ranges.
That's quite amazing. They're distinct on the sat image but from the Panoramio photos, I suspect that you'd walk across them without realising what they are.

(this should have been between devex's posts but I had problems with an attached photo and had to delete the original post)
 
#8
Strange thing here... ...and it's to do with scale.

In virtually every depiction of a WW1 trench that I've seen in films, there's about a dozen Tommies standing on the firing step waiting to go over the top - giving the length of the trench castellation as about 20'.

In your image (and confirmed in the Rothbury trench systems), using Google Earth's ruler, the castellations appear to be about 9-12' in length. Meanwhile, the castellations of the Otterburn trenches are about 30'.

Could this infer that the Penally and Rothbury trench systems were built at 1:2 scale in length? Neither of these systems seems to incorporate the dugouts that would be needed for any lengthy stay. After all, where's the training value in digging another 15' of straight trench when it's the corners that are of defensive importance?
 
#10
Strange thing here... ...and it's to do with scale.

In virtually every depiction of a WW1 trench that I've seen in films, there's about a dozen Tommies standing on the firing step waiting to go over the top - giving the length of the trench castellation as about 20'.

In your image (and confirmed in the Rothbury trench systems), using Google Earth's ruler, the castellations appear to be about 9-12' in length. Meanwhile, the castellations of the Otterburn trenches are about 30'.

Could this infer that the Penally and Rothbury trench systems were built at 1:2 scale in length? Neither of these systems seems to incorporate the dugouts that would be needed for any lengthy stay. After all, where's the training value in digging another 15' of straight trench when it's the corners that are of defensive importance?
Most of the contemporaneous footage was staged in reserve trenches, the shorter lengths are consistent with descriptions from Richard Holmes's book Tommy and I suppose actual dimensions varied along the front. There are a couple of square areas between the first and second lines that could have been command posts etc. Unfortunately the reference section of the local library is shut for rebuilding, I might give the Council archivist a call to see if there is a source of further information.

Google offers this:

At intervals around the coast of Wales systems of First World War (1914-18) practice trenches survive as grim reminders of the training given to fresh conscripts before their transport to the Western Front. The surviving earthworks at Penally show many standard characteristics clearly laid out in manuals and guidelines of the day. Trenches were built in parallel lines, usually three, linked by communications trenches. Two frontline trenches were supported by a third reserve one, although, as artillery power strengthened and increased in range, changes were made during the war to the standard layout. The saw-toothed plan prevented shell and bomb blasts travelling along the trench. This also made it impossible to see more than ten metres along a trench, maintaining the security of the system even if the enemy infiltrated one particular part. The Penally system measures 260m E-W by 100m and consists of two lines of firing trenches, linked and extended by communication trenches or saps, facing north and apparently based on an east-west running field boundary feature. In places the system has been dug through bedrock.
Source: Driver, T. 2007, Pembrokeshire: Historic Landscapes from the Air, RCAHMW, pages 260-1.
RCAHMW, 06 November 2008
 

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