The ‘bare and tortured land’ is Messines (now Mesen) in West Flanders, Belgium, where approximately 25,000 soldiers on both sides were killed or injured at the start of June, 1917, as Allied forces retook the ridge between Messines and Wytschaete.
The central figure is the 1922 bronze statue in Winchester, England, by John Tweed, depicting a soldier from the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, which does not appear to have fought at Messines, though both the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions were there (WP) and this is the reason for a number of Messines murals that have been painted in recent years: see Messines 1917 and Brothers In Arms in Newtownards | Comrades In Arms in Londonderry. During the battle, Sopwith Pups (biplanes – the triplane was used by naval squadrons (Military History)) were ordered to fly low and strafe enemy targets (Key Aero | FirstWorldWar | Vintage Aviator).
The poetry – “When you and I are buried/With grasses overhead/The memory of our fights will stand/Above this bare and tortured land/We knew ere we were dead.” – appears to be original.
There is a “No ball games allowed” notice on the left-hand side.
By Dee Craig in Wellington Green, Larne
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