Battle of Messines Commemoration 2017

Posted on June 13th, 2017

The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines was commemorated in Belgium on June 7th at 8am at the Messines Ridge British Cemetery. The Passchendaele Society remembers all those that lost their lives on the Western Front. A wreath was laid on behalf of the Passchendaele Society …our wreath was ceremoniously brought forward  by Trooper Shakeel Mitha as he lead the wreath bearers forward (see the photo left). Her Excellency Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor General of New Zealand was also present to pay her respects, together with her husband Sir David Gascoigne.

Other VIPs included Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall and Vice Admiral Mark Mellett. They then all made their way to the  nearby Messines Ridge Memorial to the Missing. The missing in action from the Battle of La Basse-Ville (Belgium) and other battles of that period, are also commemorated on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing. After Messines, the New Zealanders were moved to defend the area around nearby La Basse-Ville from June until August 1917 before moving off to the Passchendaele area.

A recap on the history – while the New Zealanders defended the area just north of Armentieres during the Spring of 1917, hard-working British and Australian tunnellers were digging and preparing 24 massive mines under the German-lines, under the Messines Ridge. Some of the mines were laid and prepared months in advance, but every day the lines had to be checked and the explosives kept dry. One mine was discovered by the Germans so they mounted a counter-mining attack.  Another mine was abandoned due to a tunnel collapse; and four under the Ploegsteert Wood were not detonated on 7th June as they were no longer under the German frontline – one of these exploded after being struck by lightning in 1955!

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