Her Majesty The Queen led tributes on Thursday 6th November at Wellington Barracks as she officially opened the Flanders Memorial Gardens. The Queen was joined by The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Cambridge and King Philippe of Belgium.
The new gardens have been created using soil from 70 World War One battlefields as well as from the Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in Flanders and The Queen and King Philippe of Belgium both laid a wreath in the gardens. They were closely followed by representatives of the seven Guards Regiments of the Household Division, who all laid their own tribute.
Last year, the soil for the new gardens was gathered by more than a thousand Belgian and British schoolchildren, some of whom were at the Remembrance event today. The gathering of soil was overseen by The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Laurent of Belgium and was handed over to British officials on Armistice Day 2013.
The gardens were designed by Belgian architect, Piet Blanckaert, and are inspired by the design of the First World War memorials. Its circular central flower bed holds the sacred soil and is inscribed with the words of John McCrae’s poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’. The garden also carries the insignia of all of the seven Guards Regiments, which fought on the battlefields of Flanders.
Following the Remembrance ceremony, the Royal party were escorted to the Guards Chapel where The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were presented with a silver reliquary of the soil from the cemeteries.
Major General Edward-Smyth Osbourne, General Officer commanding the Household Division and Headquarters London, spoke of the events at Wellington Barracks, “The foot guards regiments are made up of Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards and Welsh Guards and so represent all four nations of the United Kingdom. Taken with two mounted regiments from the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, they also represent both cavalry and infantry. In the same way that these 70 sandbags of soil represent all the battlefields of Flanders, these seven regiments represent all the British expeditionary forces who gave their lives for our freedom”.
The commemorations at Wellington Barracks come in a week where remembrance will be the Royal Family’s main focus. On Saturday, Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, along with other members of The Royal Family, will attend the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall while on Sunday there will be the traditional Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
Featured Photo Credit: Defence Images