100 Years since start of Battle of Wijtschate /Messines Ridge

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Messines Peace ParkThe Battle of Messines (7–14 June 1917) was an offensive conducted by the British Second Army, under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer, on the Western Front near the village of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium, during the First World War. Today on the centenary of the beginning of the battle, an island of Ireland commemoration, jointly led by the Governments of Ireland and the UK, in partnership with the Mayor of Messines, will take place at 14.00 at the island of Ireland Peace Park in Belgium.

Image: Turning of the first sod on the site of the Island of Ireland Peace Park, performed by representatives of the British and Irish armies. Private Dickenson and Trooper Paul Kellett. (Ref. RDFA.068 pg.14)

The battle has considerable historic and symbolic significance for the UK and Ireland, as Messines was the first time that the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought alongside each other during the Great War.  Tragically, between 1st June -17th November there were 4,901 fatalities from the two divisions on Belgium soil. This was explored by Piet Chielens of In Flanders Museum in his recent lecture ‘Ireland and the Great War in which formed part of April City Hall’s Lecture Series.

The remembrance of the joint engagement & lost of life of 36th Ulster and 16th Irish Divisions has become an important symbol of reconciliation on the island of Ireland and led directly to development of Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines, opened in 1998.  The contribution of Messines Peace Park to the British-Irish Peace Process was recently discussed at a seminar jointly organised by Dublin City Council and Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association.

A Journey of Reconciliation. Messines Peace Park Official Opening brochure, 1998

Image above: A Journey of Reconciliation: The Island of Ireland Peace Park, Messines, Flanders, Belgium. Official Opening of Peace Park, 11th November 1998.
(Ref. RDFA.068 Front cover and Plan of the Site, p. 12.)

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