Home
Archaeology
Site Index
Blog
About


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
insert sponsor's banner here.

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.




Objectives Achieved

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
 
       

The attack had been an outstanding success, by mid day all the objectives had been achieved. The important towns of Whitesheets and Messines perched in their hilltop positions were in allied hands, or at least the remains of them were. From Hill 60 near Ypres to Plugstreet Wood the front lines had been pushed forward to the first objective, straightening the salient and preparing the way for the next big push, the Third Battle of Ypres.

Casualties on the Allied side were relatively light for this type of operation, those who had faced them were not so lucky. On this the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines, we pause to remember all those who fell in this action.

Share
       




Looking Back

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
 
       

Today National Geographic published an article on the Battle of Messines, featuring our project:
Read the Article.

Share
       




Zero Hour

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
 
       

The minute hands of the synchronised watches were carefully watched as they ticked down to 3.10am. As each reached the appointed time the Officer or NCO of the Royal Engineers pressed the plunger, sending an electrical charge along the wires that led from his position in the trenches close to the tunnel entrance, down the dark shaft and along underground tunnels, through the sandbags of the tamping and into the cache of explosives.
The delay was minuscule, each of the nineteen mines bust through the surface, a huge column of fire and earth, taking with them all that was situated above them.

In front of Plugstreet Wood the square of red brick buildings named Factory Farm, vanished from existence, along with the concrete bunker which had been built in their midst. Opposite the farm gate the earth was sent skywards, taking with it another bunker which had commanded the slight rise. As the blue clay and concrete, bricks, timber, ironwork, weapons and victims began to fall back to earth, the 33rd Battalion rose to their feet and set out to capture their objective.

Share
       




Before the Attack

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
 
       

Through the darkness, men of the 9th Brigade, including 33rd Battalion AIF made their way towards the jumping off points. The artillery were very active and as the men moved through the last few yards of Plugstreet Wood, gas shells rained down. Respirators were hastily donned, but for some it was too late.

Those who lost their lives before they had even reached the front line lie side by side in Toronto Avenue Cemetery, a quiet cool place beneath the shady trees that have regrown around the small plot. The headstones close together display their names and some a brief inscription chosen by those back home.

Share
       




Ready

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017
 
       

At 4pm the sealed orders for the detonation of the mines were handed to the officers in charge of each, these were accompanied by a pocket watch, the time already synchronized to time the count down. At Ontario Farm the situation was still critical, the engineers working through the night to lay replacement firing wires to ensure their charge would blow on command. Above them the New Zealanders slipped into position ready to make the assault up the steep slope, the town above already pounded almost to rubble by the artillery.

After a final review of the plans for the attack, 33rd Battalion AIF left their billets at Neippe and moved by companies up to the front line at St Yves, each took a different route, moving in silence through the darkness. They were on the right flank of the attack, right along the line, the attacking units moved forward to take up their places.

Far to the south, near Arras a diversionary attack was taking place, hoping to distract enemy attention from the build up of troops in front of Messines Ridge.

Share
       




Trench Raids

Monday, June 5th, 2017
 
       

On the final day of preparation for the attack trench raids we carried out to assess the effectiveness of the artillery and the situation in the enemy trenches. In the Australian sector 33rd, 37th, 40th, 42nd and 43rd Battalions send parties out in the early hours of the morning.

The men from C Company, 33rd Battalion climbed silently out of the trenches by the road at St Yves, not far from the place where our team excavated the British Bunker. The short distance across No Man’s Land was successfully negotiated and they entered the enemy trenches just north of where the Ultimo Mine waited deep beneath the clay. The front line trenches were deserted, the party explored around 50 yards of the same trenches we have been exploring, but were unable to find their main objective. The party were tasked with locating the entrance to a suspected counter tunneling shaft, if the enemy tunnelers had also planted explosives beneath the Belgian blue clay, they were liable to trigger them in the opening of the battle and the results could have been devastating for the advancing Australians.

It would be over 90years before the presence of the suspected shaft was confirmed, the bulky notched timbers, knocked askew by the force of the explosion which created Ultimo Crater, next saw the light of day when our team uncovered them.

The Allied Artillery conducted a practice barrage at 3 p.m. and another at 8 p.m. In retaliation the enemy guns bombarded the rear areas, aiming to silence the guns. A enemy shell landed in Bailleul Station, blowing up a Ammunition train, bringing in much needed ammunition for the Allied guns.

The time for Zero hour was revealed to those who needed to know, 3.10am on the 7th of June.

Share
       




Dress Rehearsal

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017
 
       

As the Sappers deep beneath The Caterpillar began the final tamping of the tunnel leading to the mine chamber, shells rained down on the ground above. The roar from over two thousand artillery pieces echoed across the plains of Flanders as the gunners worked furiously to keep up the allotted rate of fire. Above the ridge, aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps reported back to their operators the locations of enemy guns as they returned fire. Three miles behind the lines those manning the eight captive Balloons observed the artillery from 5,000 feet as the creeping barrage swept forward.

In the German lines, the men steeled themselves for an attack, but all fell silent once more.

Share
       




100 Years Ago Today

Thursday, June 1st, 2017
 
       

100 years ago today on the 1st of June 1917 preparations for the planned attack were well underway. As the men of the infantry units rehearsed the action over practice trenches in the training areas, the artillery were already in action. Across the front line, the German artillery responded, shelling a wide area, reaching well behind allied lines.

33rd Battalion AIF were billeted at Nieppe, in addition to their intense training schedule, they supplied working parties to assist with preparations.

Share
       




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 £15 + £2 p&p for delivery to a UK address or £15 + £5 p&p for delivery outside the UK.
_
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).
_

Operation Kiwi DVD

_

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

_

Share
       




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.

Share
       













Website and All Material © Copyright MMX
- All Rights Reserved

The Plugstreet Archaeological Project

Website and Multimedia by Middleton House Productions