Battle of Messines Commemoration Service - Press Release 9 June 17

On Wednesday 7 June, South Wairarapa District Council Mayor, Viv Napier represented the South Wairarapa at the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Messines in Belgium.

"It was a privilege to be asked to lay a wreath from the people of South Wairarapa alongside Mayor of Messines Sandy Evrard and in the presence of Their Excellencies Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David Gascogne and other distinguished guests".

"There were representatives from New Zealand, Belgium, USA, Germany, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Great Britain. The youth of NZ, Belgium and Germany gave speeches, there was a large military contingent and also many New Zealanders who travelled to honour their family members."

"It has been an emotional few days; there are so many cemeteries and so many memorials to soldiers who were lost".

"Mayor Sandy Evrard said that the local people of Messines certainly appreciate the very strong bond Featherston and Messines have. I presented the letters and artwork from our Featherston schools to the Mayor, he was very keen to make contact with the schools."

On Wednesday 7 June a commemoration service was also held at the Featherston War Memorial. Mayor Napier laying a wreath during the Messines centenary service

Background:

At 3.10am on 7 June 1917 British soldiers blew the Messines ridge, mines had been hidden in tunnels which had been excavated by the British since 1915. Twenty one charges had been laid and 19 were detonated.. There was 1,307,800 pounds of explosives, roughly equivalent in raw energy to a half kiloton nuclear bomb. The explosions were felt throughout Western Europe including Great Britain.

The New Zealand Division’s task was to take the town of Messines after the explosions. The explosions had stunned the German soldiers, thousands had been killed, many wandered around in a daze and turned themselves in as prisoners of war.

When the New Zealand soldiers reached the village within two hours of the explosions, they liberated the village.

The village had been ruined but the people remembered who had liberated them. In 1975 the town of Messines twinned with Featherston in recognition that many New Zealand soldiers who fought and liberated them had trained at the Featherston Military Camp.

New Zealand suffered 3,000 casualties and 700 deaths during this battle.