Final bag of WW1 Belgium soil for UK memorial sets sail

A sandbag marked with a poppy emblem bearing the words: "2014-18: The Great War centenary." Image copyright AP
Image caption The bags of soil for the garden have been collected from 70 World War One battlefield cemeteries

A bag of soil taken from a World War One Belgian battlefield cemetery will make its way to the UK later before going on public display.

It is the last of 71 bags of soil collected from every battlefield in Flanders where soldiers of the Household Division died.

The remaining soil, from Ypres Cemetery, will be displayed at the Guards Museum, Westminster.

It is part of a memorial garden which the Queen will open in November.

'Unique project'

The Guards Museum, at Wellington Barracks, has funded the £70,000 project with help from public donations and a contribution from the Government of Flanders.

Last year 70 bags of soil arrived in London aboard the Belgian Navy frigate Louisa Marie, to form the Flanders Field Memorial Garden at the museum.

The final soil-filled sandbag will go on permanent public display next to the garden, which is due to be opened by the Queen on 6 November at a ceremony attended by both countries' Royal Families.

The museum has described it as a "unique project" because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had previously never allowed soil to leave battlefield cemeteries.

Queen Mary 2 was due to set off on its journey from Zeebrugge at 16:00 BST and is expected to arrive in Southampton on Wednesday at 06:30.

The sandbag, marked with a poppy emblem bearing the words "2014-18: The Great War centenary", will be met from the liner by soldiers from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment based at Marchwood.

It will then go on display at the city's Civic Hall before making its final journey via train to London Waterloo the next day.

Cunard lost 20 ships during the conflict.

More than 1,000 British and Belgian schoolchildren were involved in collecting the soil from the battlefields in 2013.

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.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ypres Cemetery in Belgium just after the end of the World War One

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