Posted on Friday 10th November 2023
Inside The Great War Hut in Cannock Chase. Photo by volunteer, Ned Edwards.
Staffordshire has a rich military history – and residents are being encouraged to explore the county’s many historically significant military sites ahead of Remembrance Day.
Ramblers can walk the level and accessible RAF Hednesford Trail, which circles around a former Royal Air Force World War Two training camp. The centre was responsible for training flight mechanics, flight riggers and fitters who were all key in enabling the RAF to successfully defend Britain’s skies.
A visit to the Great War Hut in Cannock Chase offers people an authentic experience of what life in military training camps were like during World War One.
The hut was from one of two military camps built on Cannock Chase in 1914 and it was where soldiers ate, slept and even spent Christmas.
It spent 85 years of its life as a parish hall in the village of Gayton before the Friends of Cannock Chase – in partnership with Staffordshire County Council – obtained funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to re-erect the hut at its original home in Cannock Chase.
Cannock Chase is also home to two notable military cemeteries – the German Military Cemetery with nearly 5,000 burials from both world wars and the Cannock Chase War Cemetery with 379 identified casualties.
The Katyn memorial can be found within the pine forest of Cannock Chase and is dedicated to the thousands of Polish people, who were killed by Russian forces during World War Two on Stalin’s orders.
Cabinet member for Communities and Culture at Staffordshire County Council, Victoria Wilson, said:
“Our county has strong links with the World Wars and we are very fortunate to have so many heritage sites that have been preserved well.
“As we remember our fallen soldiers this Remembrance Day, I encourage people to visit these sites and learn more about our fascinating and rich military history to fully appreciate the weight of the lives lost during war time.”
Historic England and Staffordshire County Council worked in partnership on the ‘Chase Through Time’ project to explore what remains of the Brocton and Rugeley Great War training camps - one of the best-preserved World War Landscapes in England.
This project saw the creation of an interactive online map that reveals the outlines of huts, trenches where troops lived and trained and even tank tracks. The data also shows surviving coal pits and remains of prehistoric sites.
Victoria Wilson added:
“The innovative Chase Through Time Project used cutting edge technology and engaged local communities to greatly improve our understanding of the extent and survival of the military remains on Cannock Chase.
“It is because of this project that we are now in a much stronger position to sustainably manage, preserve, and interpret the rich military heritage of Cannock Chase, and ensure that this tangible legacy of the Chase at the time of war, and those who served there, is never forgotten.”