Towards the end of the Great War, Cannock Chase played host to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. In 1917 this unit played a key role in the Battle of Messines Ridge; one of the most successful offensives of the war to date. In this action the New Zealanders captured the key strategic town of Messines winning a Victoria Cross and capturing the German headquarters in the process. Late in 1917 part of Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase became the Brigade's reserve depot where they continued to train troops for frontline action. As part of this training they built an intricate scaled model of the land they fought over at Messines. This was excavated and recorded by archaeologists and volunteers in 2013 and has since been reburied to protect it for future generations; it remains a unique example of a Great War terrain model in the United Kingdom and is considered today to be of national, if not international significance.
Working with partners including Staffordshire County Council and The Chase Project (and with help from the New Zealand Government), the Friends of Cannock Chase would like to commission the production of an iconic interpretation panel to be hosted at the Marquis Drive Visitor Centre, close to the site of the Great War camps on Cannock Chase. The panel would sit atop a steel frame with the New Zealand fern design cut into the steel; the fronds of the fern are in fact soldiers marching into the distance. Similar panels have been erected at Brockenhurst (Hampshire), Le Quesnoy, Messines and elsewhere on the Western Front as part of the Nga Tapuwae (In the Footsteps) project run by the New Zealand Government. We would like our panel to commemorate the work of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on Cannock Chase, its role in the Battle of Messines and the lasting ties between Staffordshire and New Zealand.