The model – of Messines and the countryside around it – covers some 40 square yards and was used as a training aid, to help British troops visualise what awaited them before they went to war. But it was actually built by the enemy – German prisoners of war – when they were held at Brocton Camp.
Messines occupied a strategically important position on the Western Front, and was captured by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade after ferocious fighting in 1917. Over 50,000 men (from both sides) were killed, wounded or reported as missing in action. On retuning to Brocton, the New Zealanders planned out the Messines model and supervised construction. As well as houses, shops and churches, the infamous trenches, railway lines and roads are all laid out with incredible precision, right down to the contours of the land.
After the war, the model was kept as a memorial but eventually it became overgrown. Unfortunately, once fully uncovered it will only be open for viewing for a short time – it’s so fragile it will have to be re-covered to preserve it for future generations.
The model as it appeared in 1918