NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

Battle of Messines Centenary

When: 7 June 2017 Time: 8 a.m.

Where: Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesenstraat, Mesen, Belgium

Messines refers to a ridge south of the town of Ypres (Ieper today) captured by 12 British, Australian and New Zealand divisions on 7 June 1917. Thanks to careful planning, the capture of Messines Ridge was a stunning success and paved the way for the main attack later in the summer by removing German forces from the dominating ground on the southern face of the Ypres Salient. New Zealand suffered 3,000 causalities and 700 deaths at Messines (Mesen today).

The New Zealand National Commemoration for the centenary of the Battle of Messines will take place on 7 June 2017 in the Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Messines, commencing at 8 a.m. The New Zealand Memorial to the Missing in the Battles of Messines in this cemetery lists 827 names. Later that morning there will be an Australian service at the Strand Cemetery (open to the public) and in the afternoon an Irish/Northern Irish service (by invite/ticket only). The day will conclude with a sunset ceremony at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial, Messines, at 7.30pm.  

Access to the New Zealand commemorations is not balloted – they are open to anyone wishing to commemorate New Zealand’s military service during the First World War regardless of nationality.

For both New Zealand services there will be security screening in place. As such, we ask the public to please arrive early, with a view to being in place at the Cemetery by 7.30am (for the National Service) and 7pm (for the Sunset Ceremony). 

Frequently Asked Questions

Plan your trip

The Ngā Tapuwae First World War Trails website and app can help you plan your trip. Visit the website and download the app from Apple App Store or Google Play.

How long are the Battle of Messines centenary services?

The services are no longer than one hour. The National Commemorative Service will be a traditional service comprising historical readings, the playing of the Last Post, recitation of the Ode, and the singing of national anthems. The Sunset Ceremony will feature both contemporary and traditional elements.

Do I have to register to attend the services?

You do not have to register to attend these services. Some details of the services may change so please keep checking this page, and the New Zealand Embassy in Belgium Facebook Page, for updates. We recommend you register with SafeTravel which provides official travel advice for New Zealanders travelling overseas. If you are on Facebook, we would welcome you signalling your interest on the Event pages set up by the New Zealand Embassy in Belgium.

Can I reserve seating at these services?

No. You should be able to stand for at least one hour during the services which are held in grassed areas. Limited seating will be available for those who require it.

What amenities are available?

There will be limited amenities at the service including portable toilet facilities.

What items are not allowed at the services?

Any items that may interfere with the experience of other attendees and/or disrupt the solemnity of the services. Items such as selfie sticks or large camera tripods and large banners or flags should not be brought into the service. If possible, please do not bring large items or bags into the service. Prohibited items will be removed from you at the security screening point. A prohibited items list will be uploaded shortly.

How accessible are the sites of the services?

Both sites are wheelchair accessible but please note that both sites are grassed.

Where do I park?

For the National Commemorative Service, parking will be along the N314, running from the Cemetery in the direction of Wulvergem. This parking must be approached from the direction of Wulvergem, as road-blocks and a one-way system will be in place for the day. Mobility shuttles will be available to transport those who require it from their cars to the cemetery, and back after the service and reception. Please see the parking and traffic map below for the National Commemorative Service.

For the Sunset Ceremony, the street on which the Battlefield Memorial is located – Nieuw-Zeelanderstraat – will be closed. Parking is not allocated for this service – that is, please park where public parking is available in and around the town of Messines. Some limited parking will be available close to the site for those who need mobility assistance.

What else is happening on and around 7 June?

Following the National Service there will be tea and coffee available for the public at the Peace Village, a short (100m) walk from the Cemetery.

The New Zealand services feature as part of a broader programme of commemorative events around 7 June. These include an Australian service at The Strand Cemetery at 11am (open to the public), and an Irish/United Kingdom service at 2.30pm (which is invite only/balloted). On 10 June there will be a concert programme featuring the Ngati Ranana London Māori Club. For more information, see http://www.zerohour.be/.

In addition to these events there are a number of private initiatives being organised around this period. These include activities arranged by the New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust. For more information see https://www.facebook.com/NZPilgrimage/.

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