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Terrain Model of Messines

A Scheduled Monument in Brocton, Staffordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.7685 / 52°46'6"N

Longitude: -2.0328 / 2°1'58"W

OS Eastings: 397880.8453

OS Northings: 318984.877

OS Grid: SJ978189

Mapcode National: GBR 28R.GVJ

Mapcode Global: WHBF1.RN5Z

Entry Name: Terrain Model of Messines

Scheduled Date: 12 June 2017

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1444078

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Brocton

Built-Up Area: Brocton

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Berkswich Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield

Summary

A topographical scale model of Messines Ridge in Belgium depicting the battleground of 7 June 1917 in the First World War. The model was created by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade at Brocton Training Camp in Cannock Chase in 1918 and has since been covered over.

Source: Historic England

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS
The monument is a topographic terrain model depicting the Belgian town of Messines (Mesen) and its immediate environs including its German defences at the time of the Battle of Messines in 7-14 June 1917. It is constructed on a natural sub-soil base covered in two layers of concrete. Further details and features are created using brick and pebbles set in concrete. The site was the subject of survey and excavations in 2007 and 2013 and was subsequently reburied.

DETAILS
A scale model of part of the First World War battleground at Messines, constructed in 1918 for the instruction of troops prior to their deployment to the field of battle. It measures approximately 35m by 32m and was created using soil, pebbles, brick and concrete materials. The extent of the model is defined by drainage to all four sides, which was constructed at the same time as the model using either concrete (south), re-used brick and concrete slab (west) or pebble beds (north and east).

The sculpted base rises to a plateau towards the centre, on which the town of Messines is portrayed. The model slopes to the south and west to form the scarp slope of the Messines Ridge, and a dip slope falls gently to the east and north-east.

The principal features of the town and surrounding landscape are laid out in the sub-soil with the foundations of streets and buildings composed of fragments of brick, tile, pebbles and concrete. The surfaces between the model features have two skims of concrete, which survive in patches. Roads and other routes are marked with bunter pebbles set in wet concrete, principal roads being c.15cm wide and smaller routes c.10cm wide. Buildings in the town were mostly depicted as ruinous and only surviving to first-floor level. They were built using a variety of materials including re-used brick and pebbles. Details such as doorways are shown in some instances. The only buildings thought to have been built as complete structures were the church and a windmill known as Blauwen Molen. The 2013 excavation showed neither of these buildings to survive, although two ruinous buildings were in situ, Fanny’s Farm and the Sniper’s Nest. Other urban features are picked out in pebbles including yard surfaces and the town square. The model extends beyond the town to show the rural landscape including tracks and farmhouses, as well as extensive sets of First World War trenches. Most of the trenches, along with other features such as bunkers, depict the German defensive scheme and are concrete gullies, U-shaped in section. Trench railways supporting the German trenches are depicted as indented linear cement features. Allied (NZ) jumping off trenches are marked in the south-west part of the model.

The only known post-First World War feature on the site is the base of a hut constructed as a semi-sunken building in an eastern part of the model. It was used by a guardsman who conducted tours of the model. The foundations were constructed using reclaimed concrete from the area. The resurfacing of some part of the concrete skin to the model may be contemporary with the use of the hut.

The sub-base of the model lies largely intact under membrane, sand, mesh, soil and grass. Following full excavation in 2013 the model was reburied under these protective layers and model buildings were cushioned using bags of soil. The excavation produced only a small number of First World War artefact finds.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Terrain Model of Messines in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: the model is strongly representative of the First World War period, which had a huge impact on communities throughout the world. 10 per cent of the New Zealand population (100,000 people) fought in the war and the Terrain Model of Messines is testament to their significant role during the War, and to their determination to use the events of Messines for training purposes to bring a decisive end to the bloody conflict;
* Rarity: this is the only terrain model known to have been constructed in England for training purposes during the First World War;
* Documentation: the site is well understood due to extensive survey and evaluation in the early twenty-first century;
* Group value: although most of the First World War training camp structures have been removed from Cannock Chase, some key related designated heritage assets remain in the wider area including a model trench system and a German Prisoner of War cemetery;
* Survival/Condition: the below ground remains survive well and illustrate their original function;
* Fragility/Vulnerability: in their current covered state their relatively robust construction is not vulnerable to rapid degradation;
* Potential: the model retains the potential to further inform our understanding of First World War tactical engagements, including the Battle of Messines.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Messines Model, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire: Excavation and Survey 2013, No Man's Land Archaeology for Staffordshire County Council, 2013

Source: Historic England

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