Rifleman Press



Book: Taking the Ridge


Messines in WW1




Messines in the First World War


Messines Ridge British Cemetery

Visitors to the Messines Ridge CWG Cemetery cannot help but notice that soldiers from the UK, Canada and South Africa as well as New Zealanders are buried here. As well, their dates of death range from 1914 to 1918.

These men were casualties of three different battles fought here during the First World War:

·         Battle of Messines 1914

·         Battle of Messines 1917

·         Battle of Messines 1918

Each has its own story that deserves to be told.


A cemetery with white headstones

Description automatically generated with low confidence


Messines New Zealand Memorial to the Missing

Some 529 of the 828 names on the adjacent New Zealand (Messines) Memorial to the Missing resulted from the Battle of Messines 1917. The remainder resulted from deaths in the lead-up to the battle and in subsequent fighting.

Some of these resulted from the fighting in June and July 1917 around La Basse-Ville. Others resulted from fighting in the area during the April 1918 Battle of the Lys, of which the Battle of Messines 1918 forms part. These include casualties suffered by the New Zealand Entrenching Battalion around Méteren.


A person standing in front of a stone structure

Description automatically generated with low confidence

I had wanted to tell all these stories in Taking the Ridge and had written draft chapters of these actions for the book. However, their inclusion would have distracted from that story as well as making the book too large. Taking the Ridge focuses on the Battle of Messines 1917. My unpublished chapters for the other battles are published here for information.



The Author asserts his copyright over all material published on this website. It is not for publication elsewhere including other websites. The material can be used with appropriate acknowledgement.


Further material will be added as time permits.

- Jeff McNeill




 Battle of Messines 1914

The Battle of Messines 1914 cast a long shadow over the Messines Ridge. The actions in that battle in late autumn of 1914 determined the front line configuration that held until the late spring 1917 Battle of Messines. The first battle, expensive to both sides, gave the low ridge to the Germans and with it the view over the British front lines and into their back areas. Fighting at the end of the ridge that was to determine the fate of Messines itself and in the valley and plain below in 1914 gives an insight into the challenges the British in turn would face in their efforts to retake the ridge in that second battle. And many of the ruined farmhouses fortified to form strongpoints in that first battle would prove similarly expensive to take in the second.

Battle of Messines 1914

[Pdf file]


Messines and the Battle of the Lys 1918

The Messines sector had quietened from August 1917 as the British focused their efforts at Passchendaele. Grass and weeds grew in the muddy and cratered fields, littered with barbed wire and debris of the former battlefield. This relative peace was not to last, the ground once again fought over in the Battle of Messines 1918. This battle was part of Operation Georgette, or Battle of the Lys (7–29 April 1918), part of the Germans’ Spring Offensive. This time, von Armin’s 4th Army attacked Plumer’s Second Army, capturing all the British gains of 1917, as well as much of the New Zealanders’ former back area.

This action was notable for destruction of the South African Brigade at Messines. The New Zealand Division was not directly involved, for it was fighting around Hédauville and the Auchonvillers Ridge further south at the Somme, but some New Zealand corps units were caught up in the action.

[Pdf file]


La Basse Ville 1917

The New Zealand Division tried to take La Basse Ville five times in June and July 1917 before finally succeeding in the opening of the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July 1917. In many ways it can be seen as the play-out of the Battle of Messines for the New Zealanders.


Description automatically generated

[pdf file]







Back to Top