CWGC Messines Ridge British Cemetery and Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines
Before the First World War Messines (Mesen) was home to the ‘Institution Royale’: an orphanage and school. After the buildings were destroyed by shelling in 1914 the German Army fortified the ruins, taking advantage of the many deep cellars. Here on the edge of town stood the Institution's windmill, which was used by the Germans as an observation and machine-gun post. On 7 June 1917 the New Zealand Division attacked Messines and the position was captured.
Containing more than 1,500 Commonwealth burials this cemetery was begun after the Armistice, when remains were brought here from across the battlefields around Messines.
Within the cemetery stands the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, which commemorates more than 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who died in or near Messines in 1917 and 1918 and who have no known grave.
The memorial was built where the Institution's windmill once stood. Unveiled in 1924, it is one of seven CWGC memorials on the Western Front listing the names of New Zealand soldiers with no known grave. Nearly 600 of those named here died during the Battle of Messines.
Both the cemetery and memorial were designed by Charles Holden, who had served with the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries during the war. He later designed many London Underground stations and the University of London's Senate House.
Strand Military Cemetery, Ploegsteert
'Charing Cross' was the name given by the troops to a point at the end of a trench called the Strand, which led into Ploegsteert Wood. In October 1914, two burials were made at this place, close to an Advanced Dressing Station. The cemetery was not used again until April 1917 and was greatly enlarged after the Armistice
There are now more than 1,100 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in the cemetery – including eight Second World War burials that date from May 1940 and the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary force to Dunkirk ahead of the German advance.
Wytschate Military Cemetery, Wijtschate
Wytschaete (now Wijtschate) was taken by the Germans early in November 1914. It was recovered by Commonwealth forces (who called the area White Sheet) during the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917, but fell into German hands once more on 16 April 1918. The village was recovered for the last time on 28 September. The cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the surrounding area. There are now more than 1,000 burials in the cemetery.
Lone Tree Cemetery
Lone Tree Cemetery is close to the Lone Tree Crater, one of the 19 that were made immediately before the infantry attack at the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917. Nearly all the graves in the cemetery are those of soldiers who fell on the first day of the battle. The cemetery contains 88 First World War burials and was designed by one of Sir Edwin Lutyens' IWGC Assistant Architects, J.R. Truelove.
Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery
The cemetery is named after a windmill that stood nearby. It contains the graves of men killed in action on the first (or, in three cases the second) day of the Battle of Messines. The cemetery was destroyed in subsequent operations but was rediscovered after the Armistice. There are 58 casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery, which was designed by J.R. Truelove.
Derry House Cemetery No 2
Derry House Cemetery (there is now only one) was named after a farm, which had been nicknamed 'Derry House' by soldiers of the Royal Irish Rifles. It was begun among the ruins of the farm in June 1917 by a field ambulance unit of the 11th Division (32nd Brigade) and was used as a front line cemetery until December 1917, and again in October 1918 by the 2nd London Scottish. The cemetery contains 166 First World War burials and the remains of a concrete command post built by engineers of the 37th Division in July 1917. The cemetery was designed by Arts and Crafts architect W.H. Cowlishaw.
Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm)
The cemetery takes its name from a small farmstead located near a railway, which the troops called Transport Farm. The site of the cemetery was screened by slightly rising ground to the east, and burials began there in April 1915 – continuing up until the Armistice when this already significant cemetery was enlarged further. Some of those who died in the northern part of the Messines battlefield were buried here. The burials were made in small groups, without any definite arrangement. The cemetery now contains almost 2,500 burials and commemorations.
Among their number are graves to a significant number of tunnellers. In Plot 4 Row C are the graves of Australian Tunnelling Corps casualties who were killed on 25 April 1917 when a detonator exploded in the Australian underground headquarters, killing ten men.
The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Grave of Major Willie Redmond, Locre Hospice Cemetery
This isolated grave actually stands some 100 metres along a grass track on the northern side of the cemetery.
The Celtic cross commemorates Major William Hoey Kearney (Willie) Redmond – a prominent Irish nationalist and MP who, despite being in his 50s, enlisted in 1914.
He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Messines and was buried in the convent garden of the Locre hospice – where his widow erected this memorial to mark his grave. After the war the Commission wanted to move the grave into the nearby permanent cemetery but his widow refused. Until the late 1950s the grave was maintained by a Sister from the (new) Locre hospice. In the 1990s the land was purchased by the Belgian State and is now maintained by the CWGC.
For more information on Major Willie Redmond's grave see Frank McNally's story in The Irish Times.