The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial to the Missing is located just outside of Messines, Belgium. The painting above isn’t of the memorial. Rather, it depicts the ruins of St. Nicholas Church, which was heavily damaged by shelling in 1914.
It’s the work of a soldier in a Bavarian regiment who was stationed in the Messines area from November 6th, 1914 until March 8th, 1915. He was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class while serving here, he was treated for a minor wound at the aid station in the cloisters below this church (there is a plaque), and he found time to paint at least three watercolors of scenes in the area, which you can see today at the local museum. He also became very well-known in the post-war era.
The memorial commemorates 827 New Zealand soldiers lost in the vicinity who have no known grave. It is one of nine such CWGC memorials paid for the by the government of New Zealand. Seven are on the Western Front and two are at Gallipoli in Turkey.
Designed by the noted British architect Charles Holden, who was particularly known for designing most of the underground stations in London, as well as university buildings, hospitals and libraries. Although in his early days Holden preferred The Arts and Crafts style, he was indeed versatile, also designing in Tudor Revival, Edwardian and even Gothic.
Plus, later in his life (he died in 1960), he turned to Minimalist; the style of his Senate House for the University of London, which was for twenty years the tallest building in London, was described by critics as ‘Stalin Wedding Cake’.
In all Holden had 195 distinct commissions, of which 73 were from the CWGC (both wars). He designed another memorial to New Zealand’s missing, the CWGC Buttes (New Zealand) Memorial at Polygon Wood, which will be the subject of a future article.
Holden’s Messines Ridge Memorial design is unusual in that he made it an integral part of the cemetery rather than an adjunct to it; the Cross of Sacrifice actually sits atop the Walls of Names.
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