The New Zealand Division spent the winter of 1916-17 on the Lys, within sight of Messines; and they took their part in the long and methodical preparations for the Battle of Messines. From the middle of May to the 6th June, raiding, bombardment, tunnelling and the improvement of communications went on incessantly.
On the early morning of the 7th June, the II Anzac, IX and X Corps attacked; and by the morning of the 8th, 7,200 prisoners, 67 guns, the villages of Messines and Wytschaete and the Oosttaverne Line had been taken. The New Zealand Division attacked on the North side of the Douve river, with the 25th Division on their left flank and the 3rd Australian Division on their right. The II Anzac Corps Mounted Troops took part in the attack; they consisted of the II Anzac Corps Mounted Regiment (one squadron of which were New Zealanders) and the New Zealand Cyclist Battalion. The Rifle Brigade, on the right, took La Petite Douve Farm; the 2nd Brigade took the Moulin de L'Hospice, Birthday Farm, and the Au Bon Fermier Cabaret.
The supporting battalions of the two Brigades cleared the heavily fortified village of Messines by 7 o'clock, capturing its Commander and his staff in the dug-outs under the Institution Royale. The 1st Brigade came through, and captured Blauwen Molen and Fanny's Farm. By 3 O'clock in the afternoon the Division's immediate task was done, and the 4th Australian Division continued the advance.
At a cost of 3,700 casualties the Division had captured 438 prisoners, a howitzer, 10 field guns, 39 machine guns and 13 trench mortars. On the night of the 13th-14th June the attack was renewed, and ground was gained in the direction of La Basse-Ville; and fighting continued until the end of June, when the Division went into rest until the middle of July. On the night of the 26th-27th July, the Hawkes Bay Company of 2nd Wellington attacked and cleared the village of La Basse-Ville, but on the 27th it withdrew after severe fighting with superior forces. On the morning of the 31st July the village was regained and held by 1st Auckland and 2nd Wellington.
At the end of August the Division withdrew to the Second Army rest area at Lumbres. It had carried out every task allotted to it; and it now prepared for the fighting at Gravenstafel and the Bellevue Spur, which is summarised in the Register of the Tyne Cot (New Zealand) Memorial. A brigade of the New Zealand Field Artillery, the Cyclist Battalion and the 2nd Entrenching Battalion served in this area in April, 1918, in the Battles of the Lys, and some of their dead at that time are named on this Memorial.
There are now 828, 1914-1918 war casualties commemorated at this site.
The Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial to the Missing is situated within Messines Ridge British Cemetery, which is located 9.5 kilometres south of Ieper town centre on the Nieuwkerkestraat, a road leading from the Rijselseweg, N365, which connects Ieper to Wijtschate, Mesen and on to Armentieres.
From Ieper town centre the Rijselsestraat runs from the market square, through the Lille Gate (Rijselpoort) and directly over the crossroads with the Ieper ring road. The road name then changes to the Rijselseweg.
Nieuwkerkestraat is a right hand turning from the N365 in the town of Mesen. The memorial lies 250 metres after this right hand turning, on the left hand side of the road.
The Memorial consists of a circular rubble wall, five feet eight inches high, built round a mound on which the Cross of Sacrifice is erected. It is approached by a paved path and steps, at the top of which is a covered seat. The names of over 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force are recorded on Portland stone panels let into the circular wall, and on the back of the sheltered seat is the dedicatory inscription:
HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF OFFICERS AND MEN OF NEW ZEALAND WHO FELL IN OR NEAR MESSINES IN 1917 AND 1918, AND WHOSE GRAVES ARE KNOWN ONLY TO GOD.
A short distance south-west of the village, on the road to Ploegsteert, stands The Battle Exploit Memorial which was erected by the New Zealand Government. It takes the form of a white stone obelisk surrounded by a small terrace and garden, and was unveiled by the King of the Belgians on the 1st August, 1924.