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Queen Mary 2 carrying soil from WW1 battlefields in Flanders for memorial garden

Queen Mary 2 carrying soil from WW1 battlefields in Flanders for memorial garden
Queen Mary 2 arrives in Southampton on October 8 carrying a special cargo – the final sandbag to make the journey from the First World War cemeteries in Belgium containing soil from those cemeteries to create a Flanders Field Memorial Garden in London.

The arrival of the sandbag, and its subsequent onward journey to The Guards Museum in London marks the culmination of a project begun several years ago when the idea first formed to build a Memorial Garden containing soil brought back from every battlefield in Flanders where soldiers of the seven regiments of the Household Division died in World War 1.

This has been a unique project in that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had previously never allowed soil to leave the battlefield cemeteries.

The 70 bags of soil were gathered by British and Belgian school children during the summer of 2013 and over 1,000 children from 140 schools took part.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness Prince Laurent of the Belgians attended a ceremony at The Menin Gate in Ypres last November when the sandbags of soil were brought together for the journey to England. That journey took place on a frigate from Belgium to the Thames when the sandbags were then moved on to a King's Troop RHA gun carriage with a mounted escort accompanying it to its final resting place in Wellington Barracks. Her Majesty The Queen will open the garden in November.

The final sandbag will be taken from the Ypres Cemetery and under the iconic Menin Gate will be presented to Captain Kevin Oprey, master of Queen Mary 2, prior to being taken aboard the ship in Zeebrugge on October 5 to be placed on prominent display for the ship’s 2,600 passengers to view. A Commemorative Dinner for all passengers will be held on board on October 6 and Andrew Wallis, curator of the Guards Museum, will give a lecture about this project.

Angus Struthers, Cunard director, says: ‘We are honoured to play a small role in such a worthwhile and thought-provoking project. The centenary of the start of the First World War was a time for all of us at Cunard to reflect on the sacrifices of that immensely brave and selfless generation as well as remember the 20 ships Cunard itself lost.'