Queen Mary 2 arrived in the UK today with a very special cargo on board. The Cunard flagship was carrying a sandbag filled with soil from the First World War cemeteries in Belgium.
It was the last of 70 bags collected from every battlefield in Flanders, where soldiers from the Household Division fell. After being blessed at a quayside service, it was taken to Southampton Civic Hall. It will make its final journey by train to London, and on to the Guards’ Museum at Wellington Barracks, where a Flanders Field Memorial Garden will be opened by The Queen next month.
The project began on Armistice Day when the Duke of Edinburgh attended a service at the Menin Gate. Until now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has not allowed soil to be taken from the battlefield cemeteries.
The sandbag was on display to passengers during the short voyage from Zeebrugge. QM2 Captain Kevin Oprey said: “It is an honour for Queen Mary 2 and Cunard to have played a part in bringing this last, special bag of soil home to the UK. Many of our passengers have been moved by the presence of the soil on board and have wanted to pay their respects. Today’s ceremony is a poignant reminder of the bravery and sacrifice made by so many in World War One."