1917, Total War in Flanders

1917

In the footsteps of Alphie Hanratty (IRL)

Alphie HanrattyPatrick Alphonsus Hanratty was born on 4 October 1895 in Drogheda, Ireland, and died in 1958. He joined the army on 29 October 1915. Until 8 July 1916, he served with the 3rd Royal Irish Regiment. From 16 July 1916 to 16 January 1918, he fought with the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. On 20 January 1918, he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, where he remained until 1 May 1918.

A remarkable letter written by Alphie from the front on 14 June 1917 has been preserved. In it, he described to his mother his impressions of the first day of the Mine Battle. Together with his comrades in the 10th Battalion (South Belfast Volunteers), Royal Irish Rifles (part of the 107th Brigade in the 36th Ulster Division), he advanced resolutely up the Wijtschate ridge. The battalion was able to capture all its objectives with relatively light losses. There were 'just' three casualties in his platoon, and only one of them fatal. His company commander, Lieutenant Robert McLaurin, aged 31, was also killed and now lies buried in Dranouter Military Cemetery.

Alphie survived the war and studied to become a doctor. He was later awarded the McArdle Gold Medal for Surgery. He was the father of a single son, Brian, who took a keen interest in his father's life history. Brian is still actively involved in the commemoration of events in which his father took part.
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ITINERARY

  • 10.00 – 10.30:
    • BC Het HeuvellandHeuvelland Visitors Centre
      In the Heuvelland Visitors Centre (currently under construction), the thematic exhibition 'Zero Hour 7-06-1917: the archaeology of a battle' illustrates the material heritage of the Mine Battle, with an important emphasis on excavated artefacts from the war years.
      Sint-Laurentiusplein 1 –8950 Heuvelland (Kemmel)
       
  • 10.30 – 11.00:
    • Kerk van Kemmel in HeuvellandSt. Laurentius Church, Kemmel
      The church currently houses the thematic exhibition '7 June 1917: Irish blood & Flemish mud’. Ireland has had a troubled history, but during the Mine Battle the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division fought side by side. In view of their religious and political differences, this can be seen as a unique event, the immense symbolic significance of which still resonates today.
      Sint-Laurentiusplein 1 – 8950 Heuvelland (Kemmel) 
       
  • 11.00 – 12.00:
    • Pool of Peace, HeuvellandPool of Peace
      The Spanbroekmolen Crater, also known as the Pool of Peace, is the largest and most imposing mine crater in the Westhoek. It was created by the explosion of one of the 19 deep mines detonated at the opening of the Mine Battle in June 1917.
      Kruisstraat - 8953 Heuvelland (Wijtschate)
       
    • Memorial columns to the 16th and 36th Divisions
      These columns mark the spot where the two divisions from the island of Ireland started their joint attack on Wijtschate in 1917: the Protestant 36th (Ulster) Division and the Catholic 16th (Irish) Division.
      Wijtschatestraat – 8956 Heuvelland (Kemmel)
       
  • 12.00 – 13.30: lunch
     
  • 14.00 – 14.30:
    • Grave of Major William RedmondGrave of William Redmond
      In a plot surrounded by shrubs and plants stands a single stone cross. This is the grave of Major William Redmond the Irish Nationalist MP. The text on the cross reads: 'Major W.H.K. Redmond – 6th Batt. Royal Irish Rgt. – Killed in Action 7-6-1917 – R.I.P.'
      Godtschalckstraat – 8958 Heuvelland (Loker)
       
  • 14.30 – 15.00:
    • Tourist Information Point (TIP), MesenMesen Tourist Information Point
      The info-point in Mesen highlights the most important events in the history of the town during the Great War. A walking circuit starts at the TIP and takes visitors, amongst other locations, to the town church and the Irish Peace Park.
      Markt 1 – 8957 Mesen
       
  • 15.00 – 15.30:
    • Irish Peace Park - MesenPeace Park
      Since 1988, the Irish Peace Park has been a national memorial for the island of Ireland in the Westhoek. The round tower is typically Irish and remembers the sacrifice of every Irish soldier who died during the First World War. The park also commemorates the part played by Irish troops in the Mine Battle of 1917, when Catholic and Protestant soldiers fought side by side. The site offers a fine view over the hills and valleys of the surrounding countryside.
      Armentierssteenweg – 8957 Mesen




       



 

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