WW1 'sacred soil' arrives in London

  • 29 November 2013
  • From the section UK
Media captionThe soil will travel to Wellington Barracks to be used in a memorial garden

'Sacred soil' from 70 World War One Belgian battlefields has arrived in London ahead of its internment in a memorial garden.

The soil was transported on the Belgian Navy frigate Louisa Marie, which sailed up the River Thames and docked alongside HMS Belfast on Friday.

The soil will be the focal point of the Wellington Barracks garden, marking the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1.

Its arrival will be marked with a ceremony in London on Saturday.

More than 1,000 British and Belgian schoolchildren were involved in collecting 70 bags of soil from the battlefields this summer.

It is the first time The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has allowed the soil to be excavated from some of the most well-known battlefields in Belgium.

The Guards Museum described the £700,000 project - with each bag of soil costing £2,000 to bring back to Britain - as "unprecedented" and "historic".

It funded the project with help from public donations and corporate sponsors - including a contribution from the Government of Flanders.

The process to return the soil began on Armistice Day with a ceremony at the Menin Gate, attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The sandbags were loaded onto a WW1-era gun carriage of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery to begin the journey back to Britain.

In the ceremony on Saturday, the soil will be moved from the Louisa Marie across HMS Belfast to the South Bank by Belgian sailors and British sea cadets.

The sandbags will then be loaded on to a gun carriage drawn by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery before a ceremonial procession through London to their final resting place.

The gun carriage will be escorted by mounted members of the Household Cavalry from the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, and mounted officers from the Metropolitan Police.

It will cross Tower Bridge before making its way towards Buckingham Palace and the nearby Wellington Barracks.

It will be blessed in a ceremony at the Guards' Chapel and placed into the ground at the garden, which has the words of John McCrae's famous poem inscribed upon it, "In Flanders' Fields".

The garden will open to the public next year.

Guards Museum curator Andrew Wallis said that the garden would stand as a "tangible demonstration of the bond between Britain and Belgium".

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