Archaeologists have begun the excavation of a model which helped troops to achieve one of the most successful offensives of the Great War. The scaled terrain model was built by German Prisoners of War at Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase in 1918 and is the only surviving replica of its kind in the United Kingdom.
Staffordshire has a rich history of wartime camps on the chase, and Staffordshire County Council has created a superb online resource detailing all of the wartime history of the camps at Cannock Chase.
More about the Chase Camps
In the autumn of 1914, only months after the start of the First World War, construction of two large camps began on Cannock Chase. The camps (known as Brocton Camp and Rugeley Camp) were constructed with the permission of Lord Lichfield, on whose estate they were being built. The infrastructure for the camps, including the water supply, sewage systems and the roads all had to be created from scratch before work could begin on the huts and other structures.
The camps, when completed, could hold up to 40,000 men at one time and probably trained upwards of 500,000 men.
They had all their own amenities including a church, post offices and a bakery as well as amenity huts where the troops could by coffee and cakes, or play billiards. There was even a theatre.
Following the war, the camps became akin to ghost towns, the rows of huts stood empty in an unaccustomed quiet, disturbed only by the sighing breeze swinging a loose door or rattling a window. Gradually, at the request of Lord Lichfield, the huts were sold off and were transported to their new locations by horse and cart, ending Cannock Chase’s contribution to military history.