Newly knighted MP Richard Ottaway opened the centenary year of World War One by paying tribute to fallen soldiers at a little-known memorial.

Richard Ottaway, Conservative MP for Croydon South, marked the start of the 100th year since the war at the Promenade de Verdun in Purley.

The road, on the exclusive Webb Estate in Woodcote, was laid in 1923 by William Webb as a tribute to dead French and British soldiers.

The chartered surveyor who gave his name to the estate arranged for 10 tons of soil to be transported from the Field of Explosion near Armentieres, scene of a bloody battle in 1914, in the hope of cementing Anglo-French relations.

The soil transported to Purley had so many shards of shrapnel and bullets in it that it was sifted to prevent attracting souvenir hunters - with two sacks of missiles extracted.

Sir Richard said: "Last year, 'sacred soil' from 70 WW1 Belgian battlefields and military cemeteries was carried to the Wellington Barracks garden in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1.

"It was described as an historic occasion. But here in Purley, a very similar but little-known piece of history was made decades ago by a man who wanted to celebrate the alliance between the French and the English in fighting off the German threat."

A granite obelisk lies at the end of the road with an inscription dedicated to French soldiers who died in a stand against the Germans at the Battle of Verdun in 1916.

Sir Richard said: "2014 will be a year the British people will come together in respectful contemplation of the sacrifices our men and women made to keep us safe.

"Croydon South has many memorials that remind us of the humanity and the horror of the war, including Sanderstead War Memorial, Coulsdon Memorial Ground and Kenley War Memorial Hall.

"To those people who were previously unaware of Promenade de Verdun, we also have a special place to stroll through and reflect on the sacrifices our allies made – and the importance of forging lasting friendships across the world to keep the peace."