MESSINES (MESEN)

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douvebeek

douvebeek

douvebeek

douvebeek

la petite douve

la petite douve

hop poles

old crater

steenbeek

near steenbeek

from New Zealand Memorial

uphill to New Zealand Memorial

messines

messines

messines

messines

messines

wulvergem

wulvergem

wulvergem

warneton

nieuwkerke

Messines, or in Flemish Mesen, is a very old town with a long history of warfare as it lies in such a dominant position on the ridge to the south of Ypres. This led to it being burned down several times in the Middle Ages. It has been known for its cloth industry and the large Abbey which used to be here. Messines fell to the Germans at the end of October 1914 and remained in their hands until 7th June 1917 when the British launched a huge offensive supported by a series of enormous underground mine explosions.

Old maps of the town show that the basic layout of streets and roads has altered little over the last five hundred years despite the devastations of war. The road used as the main street has, however, changed in that time and the town has grown in the twentieth century with new development slowly creeping down the hill.

Down the hill towards Ploegsteert and past the recent Irish Memorial is La Petite Douve farm, and below that in the valley, the Douvebeek, a stream which once separated the British and German lines. Recent archaeological survey work has identified an unexploded British mine still deep in the ground under the farm. This is one of two not used in 1917. The farm formed part of the German front line in the First World War and was destroyed, however, a quick comparison of the plan of the farm prior to the war in 1914 and now shows it to be rebuilt in virtually the same place and to a very similar plan. The need to reconstruct is strong even to the need to re-establish former structures to wipe out the intervening horror.

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