Remembering the Battle of Messines and its Staffordshire connections 100 years on

Video: Commemorating Staffordshire’s role in the Great War and the Battle of Messines

On 7 June 1917 Allied troops were fighting their way into the village of Messines in Belgium in one of the most successful offensives of WWI.  But many people may not be aware of the close connections to Staffordshire and the vital role of the two military training camps on Cannock Chase during the Great War.

It was here that over half a million troops from across the UK and abroad were trained for fighting on the Western Front. You can still see the lines of practice trenches, the railway, remains of the parade ground and hut bases, and a Great War Hut next to the Marquis Drive Visitors Centre. Today, they survive as some of the most complete Great War archaeological sites in the country.

men from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were also based at the training camps where they built a scaled model of part of the battlefield at Messines which was used to train troops about battle tactics and skills like map reading.  We’re incredibly proud and lucky to have such an important piece of history on Cannock Chase which is thought to be the only one of its kind in the country. The model was excavated and recorded by archaeologists in 2013.  The 100th anniversary of the battle is 7 to 14 June and you can watch a video with Steve Dean, our county archaeologist as he explains the connections.  Video: Commemorating Staffordshire’s role in the Great War and the Battle of Messines.

Anyone interested in Staffordshire’s role during the Great War or Cannock Chase’s wider history can also come along to our free commemoration event on the weekend of 24th and 25th June.  You’ll get the chance to experience a WWI field hospital, take a tour of the Great War hut and watch films of the time in an authentic period cinema. There’s a full sized replica SE5A Fighter Plane too and the Birmingham Pals will demonstrate mining techniques and infantry training methods from the period.

We do have a fascinating history in Staffordshire and If you can’t make the event and are interested in finding out more about our WWI connections, there’s lots of stories at www.staffordshiregreatwar.com.

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