MESSINES RIDGE BRITISH CEMETERY Messines was captured by the German 26th Division from the 1st Cavalry Division on the 31st October-1st November, 1914; on the 6th and 7th November it was attacked unsuccessfully by French troops. It was taken by the New Zealand Division on the 7th June, 1917, in the Battle of Messines. It was retaken by the Germans on the 10th-11th April, 1918, after a stubborn defence by the South African Brigade; and it finally passed again into British hands on the 28th-29th September, 1918. It formed a strong position, not only from its height above the plain but from the extensive system of cellars under the convent known as the "Institution Royale".
After the Armistice the British Cemetery was made by the concentration of graves from the battlefield. In the British Cemetery is the Memorial to 840 officers and men of New Zealand who fell in the neighbourhood and whose graves are not known. The dates of death of those buried in the British Cemetery range from October, 1914, to October, 1918, but the majority fell in 1917. The ground on which the cemetery stands belonged to the "Institution Royale", and the Cross of Sacrifice is erected on the site of the Institution's windmill. There are now 1531, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, 954 are unidentified and special memorials are erected to 13 New Zealand soldiers, 10 Australian, 4 United Kingdom and 1 South African, known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 13 soldiers from the United Kingdom, buried in other cemeteries, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.
The cemetery covers an area of 6,183 square metres and is enclosed by a rubble wall.
The following were among the burial grounds from which British graves were concentrated to this cemetery:
- BELL FARM CEMETERY, WYTSCHAETE, near the South side of the Messines-Kemmel road, where 32 soldiers of the 25th Division were buried in June, 1917.
- BLAUWEPOORTBEEK CEMETERY, WYTSCHAETE, 1.6 kilometres North-East of Messines, where 16 Australian and seven United Kingdom soldiers were buried in August-October, 1917.
- BOUSBECQUES EAST GERMAN CEMETERY, on the South side of the village, where four soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried by a German Field Hospital in November, 1914.
- BRISTOL CASTLE MILITARY CEMETERY, MESSINES, on the Wulverghem road near Wulverghem, where 32 United Kingdom soldiers of the 36th (Ulster) and 14th (Light) Divisions were buried in September and October, 1918.
- LUMM FARM CEMETERY, WYTSCHAETE, a little East of the Messines road, where 13 United Kingdom and two Australian soldiers were buried in June-September, 1917.
- MIDDLE FARM CEMETERY, WYTSCHAETE, near the Messines road 460 metres North of Messines, where 16 Australian, 14 United Kingdom and four New Zealand soldiers were buried in July-December, 1917.
- ONRAET FARM CEMETERY, WYTSCHAETE, between Wytschaete and St. Eloi, in which 29 soldiers of the 36th Division were buried in June-August, 1917.
- QUEENSLAND CEMETERY, WARNETON, on the lower road from Messines to Warneton, where 30 Australian soldiers (of whom 23 belonged to the 41st Battalion) and three from the United Kingdom were buried in June and July, 1917.
- RIVER DOUVE CEMETERY, MESSINES (also called Snitchel Farm) on the river bank South of Messines, containing the graves of 24 Australian and four United Kingdom soldiers who fell in June-November, 1917.
Within the cemetery will be found the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, which commemorates over 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who have no known grave. 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. This takes the form of a white stone obelisk surrounded by a small terrace and garden.
Burials (Commonwealth War Graves Commission):
- United Kingdom: 1003
- Canada: 1
- Australia: 342
- New Zealand: 128
- South Africa: 57
- Total Commonwealth: 1531