Mesen

Páirc Siochána d'Oileán na h'Éireann

Island of Ireland Peace Park

Location

The tower is easily visible on the hillside and is located on the N365 road between Ieper, Wijtschate, Mesen and Ploegsteert.

Rather unusually, it is actually situated on part of the ridge taken by the New Zealand Division and their monument and memorial are also within the village.

The large farm just down the hill on the main road is the Petite Douve Farm and scene of one of the unexploded mines from the battle. It had been located and flooded by the Germans and still lies in situ.

I wonder what their household insurance is like!

The Entrance Plaque

The Entrance Plaque

 

No longer forgotten men

The Irish Round Tower

There was a feeling in many parts of the community in Ireland that those who had joined the British Army had betrayed their own country in some way.

This was despite the fact that leaders from both communities urged their men to fight - indeed the brother of the Nationalist leader was killed not far away from this tower.

Following the Great War, Partition in Ireland and the Irish Civil War, the soldiers from the Republic (as it now is) were put aside.

Memory of heroic deeds became partisan, with commemoration seemingly resting in the hands of the Protestants of Ulster whose Tower at Thiepval in France was one of the first memorials erected.

The Ulster Tower The Ulster Tower

An historic partnership

This memorial to the Irish who died whilst fighting in the British Army during the First World War was sited here at Mesen (Messines) because of the area's links with both the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division who fought side by side in the area during the Battle for Messines Ridge 1917.

Its form is traditional dating from the 8th century and was built by young people from all over Ireland using stone from an almshouse in Mullingar which had recently been demolished.

By chance (or perhaps not) the first VC of the war went to Lt Maurice Dease of Mullingar, a Royal Fusilier who was killed at Mons in 1914. He is buried at St Symphorien Cemetery

St Symphorien Cemetery St Symphorien Cemetery

A symbol of conciliation

Born of a joint venture by Unionist Glen Barr from Northern Ireland and TD Paddy Harte from the Republic it is hoped that the Tower and Park will serve as a gesture of conciliation between the communities of Ireland and as an act of commemoration for those who had been forgotten.

It was officially opened by the President of the Irish Republic Mary McAleese on 11th November 1998 in the presence of their Majesties Queen Elizabeth II of the UK and King Albert II of Belgium.

Since then it would appear to have had a somewhat war torn existence in regard as to just who is supposed to be maintaining it.

For the moment it rests within the gambit of the CWGC, which I think is a bit of a shame really.

After a lot of words about how Irish families could at last be proud of their British Army relatives, suddenly the upkeep of the monument lands in the hands of the British.


Those who died were remembered only by their families and friends, they were forgotten by a nation who had found other heroes.


Yesterday the State acknowledged in powerful symbolism that this is a pluralist state, that to be Irish is not just to be Nationalist and to be a Nationalist is not just to be of the Sinn Féin tradition. For too long the official version of Irish history denied these essential facts.


It is important and correct that the House recalls today the events of 80 years ago, acknowledges the sacrifice that was made and regards that sacrifice as a central part of the Irish story. When that sacrifice is fully accepted, we will be the better for it.

Taken from the Senate Debate in Dublin on 12 November 1998


 
The Cost

The Cost

 

As you walk up towards the tower there are a number of plaques showing maps and others containing quotations from famous Irish soldiers from the war.

Showing the Corps Attack Plan

Soliloquy

It is too late now to retrieve
A fallen dream,
Too late to grieve
A name unmade, but not too late
To thank the gods
For what is great
A keen-edged sword
A soldier's heart
Is greater than a poet's art
And greater than a poet's fame
A little grave
That has no name

Francis Ledwidge
5th Inniskilling Fusiliers

Ledwidge is buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery having been killed on 31 July 1917

Artillery Wood Cemetery Artillery Wood Cemetery

At the base of the tower there are commemorative plaques concerning the opening of the Tower as well as the Peace Pledge.

The names of the counties of all four provinces of Ireland are represented on another.

 
Looking towards Mesen from the Spanbroekmolen Crater

Looking towards Mesen from the Spanbroekmolen Crater
The Tower is on the skyline above the tractor

 
 

Some background about the Divisions

How to tread carefully over Irish politics? It isn't easy but I shall try to give an even handed resumé.

Home Rule for Ireland Home Rule for Ireland