WW1 'sacred soil' ceremony takes place in London

  • 30 November 2013
  • From the section UK
Media captionScenes from the procession and ceremony marking the "sacred soil" arrival

A ceremony has taken place in London to mark the arrival of "sacred soil" from 70 WW1 battlefields in Belgium.

The soil is going to be laid at a memorial garden marking the 100th anniversary of WW1 in 2014.

The soil, collected by British and Belgian schoolchildren and put into 70 sandbags, arrived on the Belgian Navy frigate Louisa Marie on Friday.

It went on a ceremonial procession through London before reaching its last resting place at Wellington Barracks.

On arrival in London, the Louisa Marie moored alongside HMS Belfast and the soil was transferred to the British light cruiser.

The bags were loaded onto the gun carriage of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery along with a crucible of soil from all the battlefields.

It was escorted by mounted members of the Household Cavalry from the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, and mounted officers from the Metropolitan Police.

Image caption The soil was taken through Horse Guards Parade on the way to the ceremony
Image caption There was a ceremonial casket of the "sacred soil" transported to the ceremony
Image caption Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1
Image caption HMS Belfast stored the soil ahead of Saturday's event
Image caption Belgian Navy frigate Louisa Marie arrived in London on Friday

The route of the procession passed Tower Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade, The Mall and Buckingham Palace.

It was blessed in a ceremony at the Guards' Chapel at Wellington Barracks - near Buckingham Palace - and will be placed into the ground at the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden

The soil will be placed "at the heart" of the garden where the words of John McCrae's famous poem, In Flanders' Fields, will be inscribed.

With the sound of Jerusalem playing in the background, the youngest member of the Friends of the Guards Museum emptied a ceremonial casket of soil into the memorial garden - which will open to the public next year.

The sandbags of soil were placed at the entrance of the Guards' Chapel and will be added to the garden later on Saturday.

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

The Guards Museum - which funded the project with help from public donations and corporate sponsors, including a contribution from the Government of Flanders - described the £700,000 project as "unprecedented" and "historic".

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

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

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