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Post by pkay » Thu Nov 08, 2012 9:31 pm

A friend sent this to me a couple of years ago, I thought it was the right time to share it with you all.

The Unknown Warrior

In 1916 an Army padre The Reverend David Railton MC had conducted a burial service when he noticed a grave with the inscription “An Unknown Soldier of the Black Watch”. Appreciating that there were thousands of similar graves he wrote to Sir Douglas Haig, General Officer Commanding of the British Army in France and Belgium suggesting that a single body should be chosen and brought back to England for burial. There was no reply.

After the War, Railton became a vicar in Kent, but he had not forgotten that unknown soldier, and he wrote to the Dean of Westminster suggesting “There could be only one true shrine, and that, if possible, should be Westminster Abbey, the Parish Church of the Empire”.

After much consultation between Government, King George V and the Prime Minister a plan was agreed that was soon greeted with great enthusiasm by the nation as a whole. But it had not been easy; there had been over two thousand strikes since the War, and there were concerns that a funeral might be seen as belated with the passing of two years.

Over 880,000 British men had been killed, so the choice of a single soldier was not easy, however signals were sent preparing the way for the Unknown Warrior. It should also be remembered that there were over 2 million casualties, many of whom were crippled. This affected every community, many of which had raised memorials, but there would be only one tomb to hold the nation’s unknown son. That warrior, without rank, would be given a Field Marshal’s funeral and all that went with it; and what is more, the son would receive the nation’s thanks.

Brigadier General Wyatt GOC British Forces France & Flanders received instruction for the exhumation of four unknown soldiers from the battlefields of the Somme, Aisne, Arras and Ypres. The four parties each consisted of an officer and two other ranks, a shovel, a sack and a military ambulance. On the 7th November 1920 the parties arrived at each battlefield, still strewn with thousands of wooden crosses. Each party, unaware of the others, was instructed to take a body from a grave marked ‘Unknown British Soldier’. Soldiers must have fallen in the early years to allow nature to cause sufficient deterioration of the bodies so as to hinder identification.

The bodies were placed in a sack and transported by a motor ambulance to the military HQ at St Pol, arriving at different times, where they were received by the reverend George Kendal OBE. He ensured that the four bodies had no name, regiment or other means of identification.

At Midnight on 7th November a small party gathered outside the hastily convened chapel. The GOC was informed that he and one other officer would find four bodies inside and the shell of a coffin from England in front of the Alter. One body was chosen and placed into the plain deal, and then the lid was secured and a Union Flag placed over it.

The Unknown Warrior and his escort arrived in Boulogne at 15:00 on 9th November, where the ambulance was greeted by lines of French and British soldiers. The bearer party moved the body to the Officers’ Mess, together with 100 bags of Flanders earth which covered the body in Westminster Abbey. Here the Warrior spent his last night in France.

The following morning the coffin shell was placed in a plain oak coffin brought from England; it had been made from a tree that stood in Hampton Court Palace. On the top was a Crusader’s sword given by the King. The inscription on the coffin read:

A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918
For King and Country

The body was escorted to HMS Verdun in a cortege that was over a mile long. There were a number of emotional speeches, and the band played the French and British Nation Anthems. The coffin was joined by a number of wreaths, some so big that four soldiers had to carry them. To the strains of God Save The King and a nineteen gun salute the destroyer slowly moved out and made a course for home.

HMS Verdun was escorted by six other British destroyers across the Channel, and as she entered Dover all Union Flags and Ensigns were lowered to half mast; an honour normally saved for the King alone. As the seven ships appeared out of the mist every vantage point was filled as the band on Admiralty Pier played Land of Hope and Glory and men openly wept.

Six bearers, Lieutenant Colonels from all three services including the Royal Marines, moved the coffin through lines of troops and civic dignitaries accompanied by a band, as it made its way to the Marine Station. There it was placed in a luggage van, the roof of which had been painted white so as to be recognisable to the crowds on the way from Dover to London Victoria. This was attached to the 5:20 p.m. Boat Train.

On arrival in London, the guard was formed of sixteen Grenadier Guards. The commander was handed the keys to the van, and the guard assumed their position for the night. Meanwhile a large crowd had gathered outside. The only sounds were those of departing trains and sobbing people; by early morning there was total silence.

Thursday 11th November 1920. London was throbbing. Along the route from Victoria to Westminster crowds were six or seven deep, but the area around the Grenadier Guards was cordoned off. At 9:20 a.m. eight Guardsmen raised the coffin and moved it to an awaiting gun carriage. On the coffin were placed a war-torn Union Flag, a steel helmet and the side arms of a private soldier.

The party waited in bright November sunlight as a nineteen-gun salute boomed out from Hyde Park. Moving into position for the 3,960 yard route were the massed bands of the Household Division. Also taking up position were twelve distinguished pall bearers including Field Marshal Earl Haig, all of who were either Admirals, Generals or Air Marshals, some of whom were Knights.

The party moved off in slow time to the Funeral March and the sound of muffled drums with black cloth. Six black horses pulled the carriage, and to the rear, mourners including 400 ex-servicemen. Flags and guards lined the route and as the procession passed the street lining soldiers, they reversed their arms and lowered their heads.

At 10:20 a.m. the King, dressed in the uniform of a Field Marshal took up his position at the new and unseen Cenotaph which was covered by two huge flags. As the gun carriage came to rest in front of the King he saluted and placed a wreath with inscription in his own hand on the coffin. After a hymn there was silence as the crowd waited for Big Ben... On the last chime the King unveiled the austere grey mass for all to see, and silence was observed across the nation.

The parade re-formed behind the Unknown Warrior and the King and moved off to Westminster Abbey where a thousand widows had gathered. The parade halted and the bearer party of Coldstream Guards laid their rifles on the grass and moved into position. There was deep silence as the king saluted the tall Guardsmen as they raised their comrade. Never had any hero had such a ceremony as the coffin moved up a line of one hundred Victoria Cross holders, and made its way to the new grave with impeccable military precision.

The coffin was lowered into the grave. The King was handed a silver shell filler with earth from the Flanders’ battlefield which he sprinkled over the coffin. The grave was partly filled with Flanders soil making part of the Abbey forever a foreign field. The Last Post and Reveille broke the silence. As dignitaries left the Abbey four sentries were mounted as two vans arrived from HMS Verdun with the wreaths from France. Over one and a half million filed past the Grave over the next 16 days.

Westminster Abbey is the resting-place for dozens of Kings and Queens of England. The grave of the Unknown Warrior lies set in the floor in front of the West Entrance to the Abbey. It is covered by a slab of black Tournai marble and is surrounded by poppies and greenery; it holds pride of place within the Abbey.


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Post by will8806 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:26 pm

very moving,hard not to shed a tear or two.and as you say very appropiate for this time of the year.

taff 8806

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Post by PINKY » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:33 pm

We will remember them....

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Post by Bulldog » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:13 pm

We will remember them
Enjoy Life

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Post by Sam » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:24 am

We will remember them

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Post by DRACSS » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:10 pm

Thank you, a remarkable moving article
We will remember them


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Post by Mac McNulty » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:52 am

Thank You for the moving history lesson;

I had often wondered how the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came into being, I had remembered seeing pictures and film of the Soldier arriving in London but knew nothing of the way he was given the honour or how he was laid to rest.

We will Remember Them


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Post by rick aindow » Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:55 am

I teach Genealogy/Family History at the local University of the Third Age and use the video below for the military history section, the point being that some family history stories stop at that point!

Around 100 women were invited to attend, they had been chosen because they had each lost their husband and all their sons in the war.

The Queen mother (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) stopped to lay her wedding bouquet on the tomb after her marriage in 1923, All Royal brides married at the Abbey now have their bouquets laid on the tomb the day after the wedding, including the bouquet of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

The queen mother expressed a wish that her wreath from her funeral be laid at the tomb, HM Queen Elizabeth fulfilled her wish the day after her funeral

The Music being played is Benedictus, the theme from the movie "the Armed Man"

very moving story

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cYWv1l ... re=related

From Brisbane Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next

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