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Mesen-Wijschate (Messines-Wytschaete) ridge commands panoramic views over the surrounding flat countryside and was therefore a key military objective during the war. In 1914 the British gallantly but unsuccessfully defended the area against the Germans, who were sweeping towards the channel. The Germans soon fortified the ridge and high ground to Passendale (Passchendaele).

A major offensive commenced on 7 June 1917. Along an 8 kilometre arch of the Mesen Ridge, nineteen huge mine were detonated beneath the German lines - the explosions were so loud that they could be heard in London. The Germans were overwhelmed in their trenches as the New Zealanders, Australians and British advanced up the rise from the West. But the Germans counter-attacked and for the next two days, in a desperate but futile attempt to recapture the ridge, poured thousands of artillery shells on the allies. When the battle ended on 10 June, the southern end of Ieper (Ypres) salient was firmly in allied hands.

The battle of Mesen was a great victory, particularly for the New Zealanders, who were assigned to capture the most heavily defended section of the ridge, including Mesen. The allied forces then moved on to the dreadful battle of Passchendaele (Third Ieper), which commenced on 31 July 1917.

In April 1918 the Germans launched their last offensive, reversing all the gains the allies had made in the previous year and recapturing the Mesen Ridge and beyond, to the village of Kemmel. Their victory was short-lived, for within months the allies, led by the King of Belgium, drove the Germans for the Ieper Salient.

Mesen has been rebuilt, but will always remember those terrible years, and the men who grave their lives in Belgium's defence.


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