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The Great War hut


This barrack hut was originally situated at one of the two military camps that were built on Cannock Chase during the Great War. It has been carefully
restored to reflect its former appearance.

Part of Brocton camp under construction
Image courtesy of Jake Whitehouse

The construction of the camps and their huts Construction of two large military camps, Brocton Camp and Rugeley Camp, began in the autumn of 1914, only months after the outbreak of the Great War. They were built on Lord Lichfield’s estate. A workforce of over 100 men built the camp and the associated railway – later nicknamed the Tackeroo. The infrastructure of the camps – water supply, sewage and roads – had to be put in place before work on the huts could
begin. Water was supplied by the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, and electricity by the Cannock and Rugeley Colliery Company. The camps were a
complex of timber huts adapted to suit barracks, mess rooms and workshops. Construction of the first huts began in March 1915 and the first battalions arrived soon after.

Huts on Rugeley Camp (also known as Penkridge Bank Camp) during the Great War. Image courtesy of Jake Whitehouse

The role of the camps and their inhabitants Initially the camps were primarily used as transit centres for trained soldiers travelling towards the western front. On completion they became a training facility for battalions including the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, who later made Cannock Chase their UK headquarters.
Training was given in musketry, scouting, signalling, physical training, and gas warfare. The camps could accommodate 40,000 men and probably trained more than 500,000 soldiers during the Great War. After the Great War

When the Great War ended, the camps became akin to ghost towns – the rows of huts stood empty in an unaccustomed quiet. At the request of Lord Lichfield, the huts were gradually sold off and were transported to their new locations by horse and cart.

The hut reconstruction

Re-erecting the roof of the hut

When the camps closed after the Great War, this hut was dismantled and moved
to the village of Gayton, where it was used as the parish hall and meeting house until 2006. The Parish Council offered the hut to the Friends of Cannock Chase who, in partnership with Staffordshire County Council, gained funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to re-erect it on Cannock Chase. Much of the original hut has been preserved and is now used as an interpretation and education centre for the Great War camps.

Explore and discover
Life in the camps

Erskine Williams, from Tooting in South London, began his training at Brocton Camp in the spring of 1916, aged 35. He sent many humorous postcards and letters home, with illustrations that give a vivid portrayal of his time on Cannock
Chase. In one letter he wrote:

I’ve borrowed this [writing] paper from a very youthful soldier… He’s only 15… He can do all the soldiers’ work and carry the 96lbs of equipment… This morning had sausage (in the singular) for breakfast, slightly burnt on the side in contact with the pan.

Image courtesy of Daphne Jones

Writing paper bills to advertise the band. Observe, bed trestle for hand rest. Couldn’t be better. Done 2 days at this job. The cakes etc just received. Pineapple a treat. We had it between about 6 of us, with sardines.


Image courtesy of Daphne Jones

This takes place before breakfast. I generally do some obscure caserole [sic] of peelings. Very hot at this. Still not allowed out of Camp. Am well in health, bodily if not mentally. Not quite as humpy[?] lately, but everything is open to improvement. Hope all well at home. Weather still very cold and wet.

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