Battle of Messines map

Battle of Messines map

You can also download a hi-res copy as a pdf (2.4 mbs).

In the summer of 1917 the British launched a major offensive to capture the Messines Ridge, a salient on the Western Front from which the Germans had a commanding view over the British-held Ypres Salient to the north. The map above shows the territory taken from the Germans on 7 June 1917 during the Battle of Messines.

From March 1917 the New Zealand Division was stationed in the Douve Sector (located at the bottom of the map), forming part of the British Second Army’s II Anzac Corps. On the day of the offensive, the Corps' aim was to capture the ruins of Messines before extending and consolidating their position at the purple line of dashes marked ‘Final Objective’. For weeks prior to Zero Day they rehearsed the battle plan methodically – every aspect of the operation being planned in minute detail.

Since early 1916 British tunnelling companies had been constructing mine shafts that extended directly beneath the German front line positions at Messines. These shafts were packed with enormous explosive charges and coordinated to detonate at Zero Hour: 3.10am on 7 June. Those that did explode are shown as yellow dots, those that were discovered by the Germans or failed to explode are shown as black and yellow dots.

The explosions devastated the German front-line positions, and caused disarray and thousands of deaths amongst the German forces. Immediately after Zero Hour a British artillery barrage began to creep forward, behind which British, Australian and New Zealand troops crossed no-man’s-land.

The battle plan was executed successfully, and by 7am the New Zealanders had cleared the town of Messines of German defenders. Australian troops then continued the push eastwards, extending the front line to the purple dotted line. By the time the New Zealand Division was relieved on 9 June, it had sustained 3700 casualties, including 700 dead, largely due to German artillery counter-attacks.

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