In The Footsteps Of Alphie Hanratty (Ireland)

Patrick Alphonsus Hanratty was born in 4 October 1895 in Drogheda, Ireland and died in 1958. He enlisted on 29 October 1915 and served in several units: the 3rd Royal Irish Regiment (29 October 1915 – 8 July 1916), the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (16 July 1916 – 16 January 1918) and the Machine Gun Corps (20 January 1918 – 1 May 1918). 

On 14 June 1917, Alphie wrote a remarkable letter from the front which has been preserved. 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 (three casualties in his platoon). His company commander, Lieutenant Robert McLaurin, aged 31, was killed and now lies buried in Dranouter Military Cemetery.

Alphie survived the war and became a doctor. He was awarded the McArdle Gold Medal for Surgery. His only son Brian is still actively involved in commemorating events in which his father took part.

Itinerary

10.00 – 10.30: Heuvelland 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: St. Laurentius Church, Kemmel

The church currently houses the thematic exhibition 'Irish blood on Flemish soil'. 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

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 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 freedom fighter. 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: Mesen 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: Peace 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 

Do you need more inspiration? Here you can find some additional itineraries for your trip to Flanders Fields!

Alphie Hanratty (Ireland)
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