A POIGNANT ceremony took place at Bovington's Armour Centre yesterday, where an original Great War sandbag was filled with 'sacred soil' which will be scattered at the Tank Corps memorial in Belgium.

Representatives of the Tank Memorial Ypres Salient (TMYS) organisation, serving soldiers and veteran associations took part in the ceremony.

The Tank Memorial Ypres Salient, located in the Belgian village of Poelkapelle, represents all Tank Corps soldiers who fought and died in Belgium.

Soil excavated from Bovington will be mixed with Portland stone dust from the site where London's Cenotaph, World War One and World War Two Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) headstones were quarried.

Then, on Armistice Day later this year, a serving Belgian Army Artillery unit 'Lynx' light vehicle accompanied by standard bearers from the TMYS and the Tank Corp, will attend the Menin Gate Memorial Last Post.

Afterwards the soil will be transported under escort to arrive at the TMYS memorial, where it will be scattered in a separate ceremony.

Speaking at Monday's excavation event, Royal Tank Regiment Secretary Captain (Retd) Dean Hutton told those gathered: "We are standing on the ground and collected soil here today where so many soldiers have passed through to do their training.

"It is fitting therefore that we honour those who have gone before by the transfer of 'the toil through the soil' from which many feet have trod back to Belgium to the Tank Memorial Ypres Salient."

TMYS vice chairman, Ian Robertson, had particular interest in what was taking part.

Mr Robertson's great uncle Clement Robertson was one of four Great War Tank Corps men to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the British military's highest medal for valour.

Captain Clement Robertson was killed on October 4, 1917.

Today, his medal is on display - alongside the other three Victoria Cross' awarded to Tank Corps soldiers posthumously - at Bovington Tank Museum.

Paying tribute to his great uncle, Mr Robertson said: "It may be somewhat bizarre to be collecting a few handfuls of soil from the training area here in Bovington, but I can assure you that this simple act has huge significance with the TMYS.

"The brown, red and green of the Royal Tank Regiment colours symbolise mud, blood and green fields. The brown of the mud is particularly symbolic.

"The advance and manoeuvre of tanks in the First World War was impeded more by mud than enemy fire.

"The bogging of tanks in the mud often left the crews exposed and without protection.

"Abandoning a ditched tank under enemy fire caused many fatalities."