Guests gathered for the ceremony at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Belgium (Photo © Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

UK & Ireland join in Messines Centenary tribute

Posted on on 09 June 2017
Share |

The Duke of Cambridge and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny took part in commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines on 7 June 2017.​

Together with Princess Astrid of Belgium, they laid wreaths at the Island of Ireland Peace Park, the memorial in present-day Mesen dedicated to all 50,000 soldiers from Ireland who died in the First World War.

Guests included descendants of men who took part in the operation to capture the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, south of Ypres, in June 1917.

A private service followed at Wytschaete Military Cemetery, where 1,000 soldiers are commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

It was during the Battle of Messines that troops from the British Army's 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) Divisions fought alongside each other for the first time during the Great War.

The 16th Division is commemorated with a celtic cross at Wytschaete. 

Before Irish independence, men from both nationalist and unionist traditions enlisted in British forces.

After the divisions of the past century, the British and Irish Governments have emphasised the theme of reconciliation.

Pillars at the Island of Ireland Peace Park commemorating the casualties suffered by the three divisions raised in Ireland (Photo: Centenary News)

Taoiseach Enda Kenny began his visit to Flanders with a tribute at the grave in Loker (formerly Locre) of Major William Redmond, the nationalist politician and soldier, who fell at Messines.

The Irish Government commented: 'These joint ceremonies are an opportunity to remember all those who took part in the battle and all those who lost their lives, to reflect on the journey of reconciliation in the century since and to highlight the positive relationship that exists on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and the United Kingdom.'

Lord Dunlop, who laid a wreath on behalf of the British Government at the Messines ceremony, said:  "We have seen all too well how history can divide, but our ambitious goal throughout this decade of centenaries is to seek to use history to bring us together.

"This shared ceremony is an opportunity to remember the service and sacrifice of those who fought at Messines Ridge, as well as to further strengthen the important relationship that exists between the United Kingdom and Ireland."

Also in Centenary News:

100 Years Ago: Battle of Messines

Source: UK & Irish Governments

Images courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission (centenary ceremony); Centenary News (commemorative pillars)

Posted by: CN Editorial  Team