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Plugstreet Blog


This is the new blog of the Plugstreet Archaeological Project.


   A Great War themed project exploring sites around Comines-Warneton and Messines in Belgium.    The project is being led by members of No Man's Land - The European Group for Great War    Archaeology and the Comines-Warneton Historical Society.


Sponsored by
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We are currently seeking a sponsor for this website as it follows the progress of the excavations on the battlefield, with contributions from established historians and well known experts, as the team attempt to match the historical evidence and family history to the archaeology on the ground.

Please contact us for more details.


If you enjoy this website please consider making a donation towards the costs of the project.




Operation Kiwi

Monday, October 13th, 2014
 
       

We are very pleased to announce that a DVD recording the work undertaken by the team during Operation Kiwi, the excavation of the Terrain Model of Messines on Cannock Chase is now available at at cost of ÂŁ15 + ÂŁ2 p&p for delivery to a UK address or ÂŁ15 + ÂŁ5 p&p for delivery outside the UK.
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Told in three parts of 50 minutes each, experts, volunteers and locals reveal the story of the model from its construction, through its use as a tourist attraction to the 2013 excavations and the landscape over which the Battle of Messines was fought in 1917. Created as part of the process of recording the excavations and research, this is a non profit product and is only available in the PAL format. (Europe, New Zealand, Australia).
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Operation Kiwi DVD

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Copies can be ordered via: Great War archaeology on Cannock Chase

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Finds from the Chateau de la Hutte

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
 
       

As the excavations continue up on the hill, amongst the ruins of the chateau we are getting a mixture of finds; some military and some probably from objects from a more domestic context. Through conservation yesterday was the sole of military boot (British type) with the date 1917 stamped into the insole.
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British boot sole with 1917 on the insole

British boot sole with 1917 on the insole

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We also had a large, white with blue fleck enamel kettle. This still had soot on the bottom (from the stove) and lime-scale inside. One of the benefits of doing the conservation work in the Plugstreet 14-18 Experience is we get to meet lots of visitors. Yesterday we spoke with a lovely elderly Belgian lady in her 80’s who remembered that her mother had a similar kettle in white enamel with roses on it.

White enamel kettle

White enamel kettle

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We have also started to get lots of pieces of embossed sheet metalwork no doubt part of some decorative fixture from the chateau.

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Some early finds

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
 
       

We are now on day 3 of Plugstreet 2014. We have got a wide variety of finds coming out of the trenches at Chateau de la Hutte and Plugstreet Wood._

The Finds Team always get quite excited when we can identify and provenance some of the objects we receive. For example, the bottle fragment below didn’t look much when it came in. After cleaning we could read the words “Royal Warrant”. Some cursory research revealed this is likely an Idris Ginger Beer bottle – a delightfully British find in rural Belgium! Lots of complete bottles of this type have been found on the Somme battlefields.
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Idris Ginger Beer bottle

Idris Ginger Beer bottle

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Although most people think of fighting in this part of Belgium being associated with the First World War and especially the Battle of Messines in 1917. However this ground also was fought over during May 1940 when parts of the British Expeditionary Force attempted to delay the German advance and keep the “Dunkirk corridor” open for a bit longer. We were excited to find some German cartridge cases. These were cleaned to reveal the headstamps (markings on the base of the case which indicate such things as date and place of manufacture). In this case we had one brass case round made in Magdeburg in 1936, while others were of copper coated steel made in 1938/39. _

German Mauser round

German Mauser round

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Back in Plugstreet

Monday, July 21st, 2014
 
       

The team assembled outside the Auberge at 9am today. This year we are investigating two sites behind the front line, one a point marked on the maps from 1917 onwards, the other situated on the highest land in Allied hands prior to the Battle of Messines.
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On of our two trenches in the grounds of La Hutte Chateau, with a curious spread of cinders and debris from the building.
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The other trench has also revealed a small amount of demolition rubble and evidence of communication wire.

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In the woods we have opened two trenches, one in search of the light railway, the other in search of the feature on the maps.

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In preparation for our 2014 excavations

Monday, July 14th, 2014
 
       

The team are currently preparing for the 2014 trip to the battlefields. As you can imagine a lot of work goes into researching potential targets for excavation long before we arrive on site, many hours are spent examining maps, documents, war diaries and photographs alongside geophysics results in order to maximize our limited time in the field.
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As this year sees the centenary of the start of the Great War, team members have been exceptionally busy all year with our own projects and working with other groups to help others learn about their own families and local communities. Already we have seen a large increase in the volume of contributions of stories and photos of those who took part in the Battle of Messines to be listed on our website, every one unique and a great addition to building the bigger picture of events. If your relative was one of the many men involved in the battle, please consider adding their name to our site along with any details you have.
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If you are looking for help with researching your relative, you may find the The Wartime Memories Project help with research useful, they also have a huge collection of stories from all aspects of the war.
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We have also recently been sent a copy of the excellent free booklet 1914-1919 As Reported At The Time, which has been produced by Historic Newspapers as a teaching resource. Teachers and education institutions can apply for a copy via the link.

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Our work on Cannock Chase

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
 
       

Last night 21st October 2013, Inside Out West Midlands featured our work on the Cannock Chase Model of Messines. If you missed it you can catch it on iPlayer until next Monday. Inside Out on iPlayer

Further information and photos from our site are available on the Great War Cannock Blog

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Preparing for the Cannock Chase excavation

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
 
       

This week members of our team are preparing for our excavation at Cannock Chase. In addition to updates on this blog, the dig has it’s own blog Great War archaeology on Cannock Chase

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Operation Kiwi

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
 
       

For our 2013 Season we will be undertaking work a little closer to home, but with a strong link to our work at Plugstreet. Between the 7th and 29th of September 2013, No Man’s Land will be working with Staffordshire County Council to excavate the Messines Model on Cannock Chase.

During the Great War significant training camps and attendant facilities were established on Cannock Chase. These included two Divisional training camps, roads, railways, power station, ranges, training trenches and instructional models.

One of the most unusual Great War features identified is a scale model of a sector of the Western Front. Such models are known from Allied Reserve areas where they were used for instructional purposes ahead of an offensive. A well-known example was created south of Ypres in advance of the 1917 Battle of Messines, and the Australian War Memorial holds a number of photographs of troops inspecting the model. A second example is said to have been created ahead of the Battle of Cambrai (Peter Simkins, pers. comm.) also from 1917. However, neither model is believed to have survived and, more significantly, no other examples are known from the UK.

The Cannock model is believed to have been constructed by members of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) who captured the village of Messines during the battle. The model is known to have survived into the inter-war years when it became a tourist attraction with an attendant who acted as guide to the site. With the onset of World War II, and the return of military training to the Chase the site became overgrown and was lost.


We are looking for volunteers to join us for this unique opportunity, please telephone 0121 449 6563 or email cannockwwiexcavations@gmail.com to register your interest and book a place.

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Flanders Mud

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
 
       

This morning we woke to a beautiful red sky and birds singing in Plugstreet wood, with the temperature a few degrees higher than it has been since we arrived. The site was still very wet, giving us an authentic experience of Flanders mud, which clings to everything, weighing down every step.

Site of the Interpretive Centre

Despite the difficulties of moving about on site and having to bail out the trenches before work could begin, by mid morning we were looking at some distinct features and work was progressing well.

Trench 6

The onset of steady rain forced a retreat to L’Auberge for an early lunch, which turned into an extended lunch as the rain became heavier. When it eventually stopped, we struggled back into our soggy waterproofs and headed back onto site. As expected the trenches were once again flooded and so reluctantly we had to declare that rain had stopped play.

Flanders Mud

Lets hope the weather forecast is correct and tomorrow will be a drier day.

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Plugstreet 14-18 Interpretation Centre

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
 
       

This week we have a small team in Flanders, undertaking an evaluation of the site for the new interpretation centre prior to building works beginning.

Starting the evaluation trenches

Starting the evaluation trenches



We will be looking at the area of the main building and the car park.

More photos are available at:
www.ploegsteert.info

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