Sacred Soil from First World War Cemetery to be transported into London

Soil will form part of the `The Flanders Fields Memorial Garden’

Journey recognises the vital role the railway played before and during the First World War, particularly the London to Southampton line.

The South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance is helping to transport `Sacred Soil’ collected from the Belgian battlefields of the First World War to London Waterloo Station later this week as part of the Centenary commemorations of The Great War.

The soil, which comes from the Ypres Town Cemetery, will be taken from Waterloo to Wellington Barracks where it will form part of The Flanders Fields Memorial Garden.  The Memorial Garden is due to be formally opened by Her Majesty The Queen and King Philippe of the Belgians on Thursday 6th November.

The South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance is playing a role in this historic journey and is providing transport for soldiers from the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment and the Sacred Soil from Southampton on Thursday 9th October. The soil will then be presented to representatives of The Flanders Fields Memorial Garden in Waterloo Station.

The railway played a vital role in the First World War, transporting many thousands of troops and pieces of equipment. War was declared at 11pm on 4th August 1914 and less than a week later, soldiers began arriving in London before travelling to the south coast for onward travel to France.

The line from Waterloo to Southampton was particularly important and for 21 days from 10th August onwards, one troop train would arrive at Southampton every 12 minutes. By the end of August 1914, trains has carried more than 118,000 personnel to Southampton as well as thousands of horses, vehicles and bicycles.   This week, Sacred Soil from the battlefields where many of these soldiers lost their lives will follow the same track back into the Capital before being included in the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks.

Jim O`Brien, Waterloo Station Manager at the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, said:
“The railway played a vital role in the First World War, particularly the line from Waterloo to Southampton. We are pleased to commemorate that role as well as the memory of the thousands of soldiers who never returned by joining the Sacred Soil ceremony”.

Network Rail employees, with historical family links to Ypres will also be attending.   The Sacred Soil started its journey from the Menin Gate on 5th October and has been carried by Cunard on board the Queen Mary II cruise liner. It will arrive in Southampton on 8th October and will stay in the Civic Centre, before being carried to Southampton Central Station on the 9th October.  After arriving at Waterloo, the Sacred Soil will be taken to the Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks.   For further information on the Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks, visit: www.flandersfieldsappeal.com