Messines and Passchendaele
The Great War 1914-18
One hundred years after these epic battles, we will escort you around the battlefields where the fighting was the fiercest, following the lines of advance and visiting the locations where the great mines were detonated on the Messines Ridge.
Sites such as the legendary Hill 60, a small area of man-made elevated land in an otherwise flat landscape, this area was of particular strategic importance. Due to the nature of the fighting, heavily shelled and mined by both sides, the memorial site remains the final resting place of many soldiers whose bodies could not be retrieved. Look closely at the memorial to the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company and you will see bullet holes, dating from World War Two, as this area was again fought over.
The town of Messines was captured by the New Zealand troops and Wytschaete (known as 'Whitesheet' to the British) which was captured by the brave Irishmen of 16th and 36th (Ulster) Divisions. The Battle of Messines started on the 7th June 1917 with the detonation of 19 mines under the German lines, the devastation they caused can still be seen in the preserved craters at St. Eloi and Spanbroekmoelen. The Messines Ridge Cemetery is the final resting place of 1,534 soldiers, of which only 577 could be identified and on the Memorial to the Missing you will find the names of over 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Further north for the Battle of Passchendaele, where at the Memorial Museum the memory of the Battle is kept alive, allowing you to follow the battle and story of the breakthrough which is presented in a unique collection of images, movies and historical artefacts. Journey into the cellar and walk through the 1917 trench reconstruction, complete with headquarters, communication and dressing posts, workplaces and dormitories, where you will get a real perspective on what life was like living underground.
This tour will travel the route of Pilkem Ridge as the attack pushed on towards the German front line at Langemark. You will pass the point where the late Harry Patch, “the last Fighting Tommy”, served during the battle.
59 soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross in the course of the 113 day battle which attained small territorial gains, at a terrible cost.