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Memorial The New Zealand Soldier

The New Zealand Soldier statue is a memorial to all the soldiers of the New Zealand Division who fought in the Battle of Messines Ridge on June 7, 1917.
It symbolizes the relationship that has existed between New Zealand and Messines since the First World War.

The "Battle of Messines" on June 7, 1917 was the best-prepared of the entire First World War.
Mesen, situated on a ridge 80 m above sea level, was not only a heavily fortified position by the Germans, but the heights also offered the enemy miles of vistas, so that few British troop movements could escape them.
If the British ever wanted to defeat the Germans at Ypres, they first had to drive them off the ridge of Messines. Therefore, in the second half of 1915, General Plumer's British Second Army began digging long and deep tunnels under the German positions to place heavy deep mines. The whole operation was a fine example of underground military engineering: tunnels of up to 600 meters long led to no less than 26 underground chambers with depth mines, the heaviest of which contained some 43,400 kilograms of explosives at a depth of 42 m. Digging was difficult.
Finally, "Zero Hour" was set on June 7, 1917, at 3.10 a.m. before sunrise. Twenty of the 26 mines envisaged were effectively taken up. The panic was enormous.
The Germans at the front were pulverized, buried under tons of earth or killed by the pressure of the blast.
Simultaneously with the massive explosion, nine infantry divisions, all together some 80,000 English, Welsh, Irish, Australians and New Zealanders, attacked the German positions, assisted by 72 of the very latest Mark IV tanks. Due to the almost complete elimination of the German first line of defense, that went without many problems everywhere.

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  • Text: Marie-Christine Vinck
  • Photos: Marie-Christine Vinck