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The Unknown Warrior

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The Unknown Warrior

The Unknown Warrior
United Kingdom
The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
For the unknown war dead, wherever they fell
Unveiled 11 November 1920
Location
near London, England

The British tomb of The Unknown Warrior holds an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War.[1] He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London on 11 November 1920, simultaneously with a similar interment of a French unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in France, making both tombs the first to honour the unknown dead of the First World War. It is the first example of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

History of the Unknown Warrior

Origins

The idea of a Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was first conceived in 1916 by the Reverend David Railton, who, while serving as an army chaplain on the Western Front, had seen a grave marked by a rough cross, which bore the pencil-written legend 'An Unknown British Soldier'.[2]

He wrote to the [2]

Selection, arrival and ceremony

The van in which the body of the Unknown Warrior was carried
Replica Coffin of the Unknown Warrior; interior of the Cavell Van, Bodiam

Arrangements were placed in the hands of [3]

The coffin stayed at the chapel overnight and on the afternoon of 8 November, it was transferred under guard and escorted by Kendall, with troops lining the route, from Ste Pol to the medieval castle within the ancient citadel at Boulogne. For the occasion, the castle library was transformed into a chapelle ardente: a company from the French 8th Infantry Regiment, recently awarded the Légion d'Honneur en masse,[4] stood vigil overnight.[1]

The following morning, two undertakers entered the castle library and placed the coffin into a casket of the oak timbers of trees from The King personally from the Royal Collection was affixed to the top and surmounted by an iron shield bearing the inscription 'A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 for King and Country'.[1]

The casket was then placed onto a French military wagon, drawn by six black horses. At 10.30 am, all the church bells of Boulogne tolled; the massed trumpets of the French cavalry and the bugles of the French infantry played Aux Champs (the French "Last Post").[1] Then, the mile-long procession—led by one thousand local schoolchildren and escorted by a division of French troops—made its way down to the harbour.[1]

At the quayside, The Western Front Association, takes place between platforms 8 and 9.)

On the morning of 11 November 1920, the casket was placed onto a gun carriage of the The King, the Royal Family and ministers of state to Westminster Abbey, where the casket was borne into the West Nave of the Abbey flanked by a guard of honour of one hundred recipients of the Victoria Cross.

The guests of honour were a group of about one hundred women.[1] They had been chosen because they had each lost their husband and all their sons in the war.[1] "Every woman so bereft who applied for a place got it".[1]

The coffin was then interred in the far western end of the Nave, only a few feet from the entrance, in soil brought from each of the main battlefields, and covered with a silk pall. Servicemen from the armed forces stood guard as tens of thousands of mourners filed silently past. The ceremony appears to have served as a form of catharsis for collective mourning on a scale not previously known.[1]

The grave was then capped with a black Belgian marble stone (the only tombstone in the Abbey on which it is forbidden to walk) featuring this inscription, composed by Herbert Edward Ryle, Dean of Westminster, engraved with brass from melted down wartime ammunition:

BENEATH THIS STONE RESTS THE BODY
OF A BRITISH WARRIOR
UNKNOWN BY NAME OR RANK
BROUGHT FROM FRANCE TO LIE AMONG
THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS OF THE LAND
AND BURIED HERE ON ARMISTICE DAY
11 NOV: 1920, IN THE PRESENCE OF
HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V
HIS MINISTERS OF STATE
THE CHIEFS OF HIS FORCES
AND A VAST CONCOURSE OF THE NATION

THUS ARE COMMEMORATED THE MANY
MULTITUDES WHO DURING THE GREAT
WAR OF 1914 – 1918 GAVE THE MOST THAT
MAN CAN GIVE LIFE ITSELF
FOR GOD
FOR KING AND COUNTRY
FOR LOVED ONES HOME AND EMPIRE
FOR THE SACRED CAUSE OF JUSTICE AND
THE FREEDOM OF THE WORLD

THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS BECAUSE HE
HAD DONE GOOD TOWARD GOD AND TOWARD
HIS HOUSE

Around the main inscription are four texts:

THE LORD KNOWETH THEM THAT ARE HIS (top)
UNKNOWN AND YET WELL KNOWN, DYING AND BEHOLD WE LIVE (side)
GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS (side)
IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE (base)

Later history

A year later, on 17 October 1921, the unknown warrior was given the United States' highest award for valour, the Medal of Honor, from the hand of General John Pershing; it hangs on a pillar close to the tomb. On 11 November 1921, the American Unknown Soldier was reciprocally awarded the Victoria Cross.

When Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.[10]

Before she died in 2002, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (the same Elizabeth who first laid her wedding bouquet at the tomb) expressed the wish for her wreath to be placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, laid the wreath the day after the funeral.[12]

The British Unknown Warrior came 76th in the Royal British Legion as the new National Memorial Engine. A public appeal to build the locomotive was launched in 2008. The Unknown Warrior is expected to be complete by 2018—the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice, if sufficient funds can be raised.[14]

The day after the wedding of William and Catherine Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 29 April 2011, the Duchess' wedding bouquet was laid on the tomb.[15][16]

Heads of state from over 70 countries have lain wreaths in memoriam of the Unknown Warrior.[17]

Related memorials

There have been three related memorials erected since 1920 for the Unknown Warrior:

  • St. Pol where the Unknown Warrior was selected
  • Dover harbour at the cruise terminal where the Unknown Warrior was brought ashore
  • Victoria Station, London, where the Unknown Warrior rested before his burial on 11 November

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hanson, Chapters 23 & 24
  2. ^ a b Allingham, Henry; Goodwin, Dennis (2011). Kitchener's Last Volunteer: The Life of Henry Allingham, the Oldest Surviving Veteran of the Great War. Random House. p. 132. 
  3. ^ Stearn, Roger T. (2004). "Unknown Warrior, the (d. 1914?)". .  
  4. ^ "Collectivité décorées de la Légion d’honneur, 8eme régiment d'infanterie de ligne" (in French). France-Phaleristique.com. 
  5. ^ "Bid to save WWI heroes' carriage". BBC News. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  6. ^ Memorial Services (November 11th) Committee, Maurice Hankey, Cabinet Office Papers, 1915–1978, The National Archives. (CAB 24/114.
  7. ^ Holmes, p. 630
  8. ^ Casualty Details—Bowes-Lyon, The Hon Fergus, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 16 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Final resting place of Queen's uncle discovered nearly a century after his death".  
  10. ^ a b "Queen releases 60 wedding facts". BBC News. 18 November 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007. 
  11. ^ Rayment, Sean (1 May 2011). "Royal wedding: Kate Middleton's bridal bouquet placed at Grave of Unknown Warrior". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  12. ^ "Details of the Queen Mother's funeral". CNN. 7 April 2002. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  13. ^ Cooper, John (2002). Great Britons. London: National Portrait Gallery. p. 9.  
  14. ^ "The LMS Patriot Project". The LMS-Patriot Company Ltd. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  15. ^ "Touching tribute from a Royal bride: Kate's bouquet returns to Westminster Abbey to lie on the grave of the unknown soldier". Daily Mail (London). 30 April 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  16. ^ "Queues at Westminster Abbey to view royal flowers". BBC News. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Barack Obama lays memorial wreath at Westminster Abbey". The Daily Telegraph (London). 24 May 2011. 

References

  • Hanson, Neil (2005). The Unknown Soldier. London: Doubleday.  
  •  

Further reading

  • The Story of the British Unknown Warrior, M. Gavaghan

External links

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