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The Centenary of the Battle of Messines

Posted  7 June 2017 in News  
By Liz Robertson
A British soldier looks out across the Douve Valley, as shells explode on the village of Messines, 8th June, 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Q2295 A British soldier looks out across the Douve Valley, as shells explode on the village of Messines, 8th June, 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Q2295

The Battle of Messines

At 3:10am on the morning of 7th June 1917, the Battle of Messines began in West Flanders, Belgium.

The battle opened with the explosion of 19 mines tunneled underneath the German positions on Messines Ridge. The explosion took just 18 seconds, and created one of the largest non-nuclear explosions of all time, reportedly heard in London.  After the blast, British, Irish, Australian and New Zealand troops advanced behind a heavy artillery bombardment, from of one of the largest concentrations of artillery seen in the First World War. The German forces were unable to withstand this combined assault. An estimated 10,000 men were killed in the explosion and bombardment. By evening, Messines Ridge was captured and by 14th June Allied forces held the entire Messines Salient. This was an important strategic position which enabled the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) to go ahead in July 1917.

British success relied upon troops from across the Empire. For example, mines were laid by a coordinated team of Royal Engineers, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British tunneling companies. The Battle of Messines was also the first time that soldiers of British Army’s 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought alongside each other in the First World War.

Marking the Centenary

The Battle of Messines is being commemorated across the First World War Centenary Partnership. Search the events calendar to find an event near you.

Governments of Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand are all holding events in and around present-day Mesen (Messines) on the 7th June 2017.

A large number of events are planned by members of the Partnership across Northern Ireland, in June and July 2017.

An international concert, sound and light show will take place at Messines Ridge, on the 10th June.

The National Museum of Ireland have launched a new exhibition, ‘War in the Mud: The Irish soldier in the summer of 1917’ and will be holding a series of talks on the 18th June.

The Irish Times has published the latest in its series of ‘Century’ supplements, entitled ‘Western Front: From Messines to Passchendaele’.

 

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