The New Zealand Memorial at Messines.
About ten miles to the north is the city of Ypres, famous during the Great War for remaining in allied hands, the fiercely defended symbol of defiance against the invading army. A few miles to the south is Armentières, also in Allied hands, between the two the front lines sweep in a wide curve with the German Imperial Army holding the ridge and the towns of Messines and Wytschaete with their excellent views over the surrounding countryside.
This was the situation from October 1914 onwards. The Allies had halted the advance, but were unable to push the enemy back. Both sides dug in, fortifying the lines, using farm houses and town houses as shelter from the shelling and defensive points against infantry attack . In the towns on the ridge the German's had the advantage of the cellars beneath the houses and in Messines the large cellars beneath the Institution Royale were ideal.
Despite appearances, the Allies did not just hold the line for the next three years, plans were afoot to break the enemy's hold on Flanders, and Messines was central to that plan.