Trench Map of the German fortification on the Messines Ridge
The village of Messines occupied a ridge which commanded the area to the south of Ypres and this feature formed a strong point in the German defences. The British had been removed from here in the Autumn of 1914 and preparations were under way in 1916 to recapture the area in advance of a general offensive. Extensive training including the use of large scale models began well before the assault and mines were constructed out beneath No Man’s Land and under the German positions.
The assault commenced without the customary artillery barrage but instead with the detonation of explosives packed within 19 mines constructed below the German positions. The capture of Messines was the responsibility of the New Zealand Division which included the NZRB and following a ‘sharply fought action’ in which the German garrison commander and his staff were captured the village was under NZRB control (The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 1924). In this action Lance Corporal Frickleton won the Victoria Cross for the destruction of two machine posts whilst wounded. During June 1917 and including the 21 days fighting at Messines the brigade suffered 164 men killed, 947 wounded and 165 listed as missing in action.