Tyne Cot cross

Leicester Fosse & The First World War: Robert Messer

Outside-right Robert Messer, described at the time as ‘a fine wing player who is very fast and centres well’ appeared twice for Leicester Fosse in the 1910/11 season, against Clapton Orient and Huddersfield Town.

During the First World War, Edinburgh-born Robert became a private in the 6th Battalion, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

He was the 11th Leicester Fosse player to be killed in the conflict. He was killed on 16 October, 1918, near Ypres, at the battle of Courtrai.

Since April 1916, the 6th Battalion was in the 9th Scottish Division, which had been on the Western Front since May 1915.

In the months leading up to Robert’s death, the 6th Battalion was involved in the Battle of the Lys, near Ypres, in April 1918.

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Robert Messer
Robert Messer

Robert Messer was an outside-right described as 'a fine wing player'.

It then became involved in the final push against the German forces in Belgium. This was after the Allies had broken through the Hindenburg line further south.

This breakthrough led to the Allied strategy of pursuing the German Army for as long as possible before the winter set in.

The final advance into Belgian Flanders, near Ypres, began on 14 October, 1918, two days before Robert’s death. This was the battle of Courtrai, which raged between 14 and 19 October.

The offensive began at 5.35am. It was a joint operation involving 11 Belgian Divisions, 6 French Divisions and 10 British Divisions, one of which was Robert’s 9th Scottish Division.

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Tyne Cot panels
Tyne Cot panels

Robert’s body was never found. He is one of over 35,000 names recorded on the Portland Stone panels.

Under cover of a creeping barrage, which advanced at 100 yards per minute, significant Allied advances had been achieved by the end of the day.

Fighting continued the next day and by 16 October, the day that Robert was killed, the British had advanced as far as the River Lys, which they crossed at several points.

Following Robert’s death, the Allied advance continued. Bruges and Zeebrugge fell by 19 October and the Dutch border was reached the following day. 

The crossing of the Lys and the capture of Courtrai by the British Second Army on 19 October, led to a German retreat further south. 

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Robert Messer's medals
Robert Messer's medals

Robert’s medals are now on display in the stadium’s reception area.

Ten days after Robert’s death, his battalion was removed from the front line. Sixteen days after that, the war ended.

Robert’s Medal Index Card records that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These are now on display in the stadium’s reception area.

Robert’s body was never found. He is one of over 35,000 names recorded on the Portland Stone panels which extend for 150 metres around part of the perimeter of the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.

The centre-piece of this hugely impressive memorial and cemetery is a large cross which surmounts a concrete German blockhouse captured by the Allies during the carnage of the Third Battle of Ypres, between July and November 1917.

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