Soil of WW1 battlefields to be used in new memorial

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Soil from the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele battlefields is to be brought to Britain to make up a new memorial garden.

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Designed to mark the centenary of the First World War, the garden, due to be installed within the grounds of the Guards Museum at the Wellington Barracks near Buckingham Palace, will feature soil from 70 battlefields.

The soil, which was collected from battlefields over the summer by 1,000 British and Belgian schoolchildren, will be transported to London in sandbags manufactured by the same company that provided the bags used to fortify the trenches on the western front.

The bags will be loaded onto a First World War gun carriage to begin its stately journey to London on 29 November.

The soil will arrive in the Port of London aboard a Belgian naval frigate, the Louise Marie. The frigate will sail under Tower Bridge, which will open in salute to allow it to berth alongside HMS Belfast.

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The following day the soil will be transported through the streets of London, before arriving at its final resting place at the Wellington Barracks.

The Guards Museum is inviting members of the public to purchase an emptied sandbag, mounted and framed with an inscribed plate, for £2,000 each.

The proceeds will help the museum to address the £140,000 shortfall in funding needed to ensure the project is fully realised.

The £700,000 project, designed to honour the sacrifice made by the 4,096 soldiers of the Guards regiments who gave their lives on the battlefields during the Great War, is funded jointly by the Guards Museum, corporate sponsors such as the Victoria Business Improvement District, and public donations.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “As the spiritual home of the Guardsmen, this memorial garden will be a fitting tribute to their unbroken service over hundreds of years, and in particular their sacrifice during the Great War.

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“With the centenary of that war almost upon us, this memorial will also be an important reminder of their heroism, and further proof of the bonds of friendship forged between Belgium and our own country, and I urge companies and individuals to dig deep so that this timely project can be completed.”