Wednesday 11 April 2007 by Craig Tibbitts. 5 comments
To Flanders Fields, 1917, Battles, Messines

The battle of Messines fought on 7 June 1917 was the first large-scale action involving Australian troops in Belgium and it also marked the entry of the 3rd Division into a major battle. Messines was an important success for the British Army leading up to the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres several weeks later.

At 3.10 am on 7 June 1917 nineteen powerful mines exploded under the German trenches along the Wytschaete – Messines ridge. Heavily supported by great volumes of artillery fire the British troops, commanded by General Sir Herbert Plumer, surged forward to capture the enemy positions. The 3rd Australian Division under Major-General John Monash, entering battle for the first time, was anxious to prove itself worthy of the reputation of the other veteran Australian divisions. It made a very successful attack alongside the New Zealand Division just south of the Messines village. The other Australian division involved, the 4th, under Major-General William Holmes, made a follow-up attack later in the day. Although some fighting continued, the result was virtually decided by the end of the first evening with the ridge being taken and enemy counter-attacks repulsed.

Read more on Messines (48 pages) - The Official History

Basic Map: Messines from the Official History Vol IV, p 610

Download planned objectives for Messines battlefield map (PDF file)

The Battle of Messines.  Charles Wheeler (1923).  Men of the 3rd Australian Division leaving their trenches as the sky is lit by explosions. The Battle of Messines. Charles Wheeler (1923). Men of the 3rd Australian Division leaving their trenches as the sky is lit by explosions.

The Battle of Messines / Charles Wheeler (1923).

Comments

Aaron Pegram

I was at Messines Ridge in April and was fortunate enough to have a local take me around the battlefield. She was telling me that in the 1950s, a farmer had been plowing his field when he came across some wires. A good hard yank and one of the unexploded mines went up. Most of the craters have been filled in now, but on one farm we saw two being put to good use as drinking points for dairy. She was also telling me this whilst we were looking at a paddock which was overgrown with blackberry bushes in an otherwise well manicured landscape near Bayernwald. I asked her why that one little section was not farmed, and apparently there are too many gas shells in this one area and is extremely dangerous to farm. Rather than risk uncovering them, the paddock is fenced off and nobody is allowed to enter.

Michael Freudenberg

My Great Grandfathers brother Berthold Christian Freudenberg was kill in this battle on the 07/06/1917. He was under 4th Division, 13th Brigade, 49th Battalion (Queensland) 7th Reinforcments.

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Carol Sutherland

My Great Grandfather, Victor Reginald Shalders, was awarded a Military Medal during this battle for 'conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty'. He was a runner attached to company headquarters, conveying messages under heavy shell fire, and apparently he did this always with cheerfulness and later severley blistered feet. He also assisted in evacuating casualties by warning stretcher beareres in the area. Tomorrow is Anzac Day and I feel so proud of my great grandfather for having such admiral qualities in what sounds like a terrifying, yet important battle.