The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East

War memorials

Belgium: Messines Ridge British Cemetery

Architect: Charles Holden
Owners: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Location: Mesen, West-Vlaanderen

Messines Ridge British Cemetery was designed by Charles Holden, as is clear from the stripped Classical manner of the shelter building. In between the two austere buildings of Portland stone runs a Doric colonnade with fluting only around the column bases (Temple of Apollo at Delos) and this modern primitivism gives the structure something of the character of Holden’s contemporary work for the London Underground. The entrance to the cemetery is around a circular mound on which stands the Cross of Sacrifice. The curving wall around the mound is inscribed with 840 names, for this serves as a memorial to some of New Zealand’s ‘Missing’ as the government of New Zealand decided not to erect one large memorial (as the Canadians, Australians and South Africans did) but to have several memorials to their Missing in different cemeteries. The Assistant Architect was W.C. Von Berg and the cemetery was constructed in 1924-28; it contains 1,513 graves.

After three weeks of artillery bombardment at Messines Ridge, which formed the southern wing of the Ypres Salient, mine chambers filled with a million pounds of explosives were detonated under the German lines just before dawn on 7th June 1917 – the bang could apparently be heard in England – and the crest of the ridge was taken. Flanders is so flat that any elevation of ground was of great strategic importance.

Gavin Stamp

Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery 


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