Mercury Barracks
 
Aerial view of 13th Signal Regiment before closure
 
 
 
 

Parts of the following were extracted from the 13th Signal Regiment Regimental Handbook, printed in January 1972, and presented to the Association by one of its members, Angus Macrae to whom we are grateful.


'Mercury Barracks'   was located close to the German/Dutch border at Rothenbach. It was on the road between the Dutch town of Roermond and the German town of Wassenberg, some 80 Km's north of Aachen. Local rumour has it that Mercury Barracks was built on the site of a Roman Signal Station!. Stadt Wassenberg, the nearest German town, received its first official mention in 1021. In about 1085 Count Gerhard of Flanders made the castle of Wassenberg his dynastic residence.

The castle which was central to the town had risen out of a former defence construction. During the twelfth century the Battle of Wassenberg took place between, on the one side, the Duke of Limburg and the Duke of Brunswick (later to become Emperor OTTO IV) and on the other, Phillip of Swabia, son of Emperor Frederick1 of Germany. It resulted in Otto and Limburg having to flee to Cologne. Wassenberg was granted town status in 1273.

The village nearest to the camp was Effeld, which was about 1.5 Km's away. It was renowned for its friendly pubs and abundant asparagus fields. The countryside is mainly flat agricultural land, well wooded with small rivers winding their way through it. The farmland is fertile and a point of interest is at Rosenthal, a village close by, where there is ocean sand lying on the surface. This is probably the only example of this inland in Europe. In a general line between Wassenberg and Huckelhoven there are small hills where the finest quality shipping coal used to be mined.

In addition to the huge defence tower, which has been converted into a viewing point, many other parts of the remaining defence constructions have been restored: the town wall, defence towers within the wall, delinquents tower (dungeon) and the 'Rostor'. The major part of these constructions dates from 1420, whereas the lower part of the 'Rostor' and the dungeon were from around 1365.

Other buildings of historical and cultural importance such as Elsum and Effeld castles, as well as several churches, are witnesses of an important past.

In the Middle Ages Wassenberg became a market town accredited with market status. The principle sources of income of the inhabitants were commerce, trade, handicrafts and agriculture. In the 16th century the cultivation of flax was a wide-spread source of income. A colouring matter was grown on the plains of Brul, from which was produced the dye material for the colouring of linen. This continued to be used until the introduction of aniline colouring. A further source of income was the manufacture of roofing tiles. This stimulated the economic life of Wassenberg for centuries right up to the middle of the 19th century. Tile production took place in the so-called 'Pannenschop' clay furnaces. These were located in the area around today's Tante Lucie restaurant but came to a standstill with the importation of the French lapped tiles.

From the turn of the century the economic structure has been characterised by small and medium-sized factories as well as cottage industries. This structure changed with the introduction of a host of different types of industry and the industrial estate in Forst was created. In 1978 a local mining shaft was sunk by the Sophia Jacoba Company in the Birgelen woods, from where the miners reach the rich coal fields under Wassenberg. Apart from commerce, trade and agriculture the economic life of Wassenberg is complemented by the cultivation of asparagus and peaches.

Due to its beauty and the multiplicity of its countryside, Wassenberg has always attracted many visitors. This is all the more so as Wassenberg is also part of the nature park of Schwalm-Nette. A total of 1100 hectares of woods and heathland are connected by well signed paths, ideal for walkers.