England

Final bag of WW1 Flanders soil arrives in Southampton

WW1 memorial soil
Image caption The sandbag, marked with a poppy emblem, arrived at Southampton on the Queen Mary 2

A ceremony has taken place in Southampton to mark the arrival of a bag of soil taken from a World War One Belgian battlefield cemetery.

It is the last of 70 bags of soil collected from every battlefield in Flanders where soldiers of the Household Division died.

After being taken off the Cunard liner, Queen Mary 2, the soil was blessed during a dockside service.

It will be displayed for the day at the city's Civic Hall.

On Thursday the bag of soil will make its final journey via train, in a first-class carriage, to London Waterloo.

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

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Soil was taken from Ypres Cemetery in Belgium (pictured here just after the end of the World War One)

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

The Queen will open the garden in November.

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

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.

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

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had previously never allowed soil to leave battlefield cemeteries.

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