The Unknown Warrior

In the centre of Westminster Abbey is the grave of the Unknown Warrior.

His body was brought from France to be buried there on the 11th of November 1920. The grave itself contains soil from France and is covered with Belgian marble.

 

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

 

The idea of the burial is thought to have come from the Reverend David Railton who was a Chaplain on the Front. In August of 1920 he wrote to the Dean of Westminster who at the time was Herbert Ryle. Through his effort the memorial was created. One unknown British Soldier was selected from each of the four battle grounds the Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres. On the night of the 7th of November 1920, Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt, with Colonel Gell, went into the chapel alone and selected one soldier. This soldier was placed into a plain coffin with the plate reading,

 

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

 

Chaplains of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Non-Conformist churches held a service, and the body was lain to rest.

On the morning of the 11th, the coffin was place on a gun carriage and drawn by six black horses of the Royal Horse Artillery. It began its final journey through busy crowd-lined streets and made its last stop in Whitehall where King George V unveiled the cenotaph. The King placed his wreath of red roses on the coffin with a signed card.

"In proud memory of those Warriors who died unknown in the Great War. Unknown, and yet well-known; as dying, and behold they live”.

A televised service was held on the 11th of November 2020 to commemorate the Centenary of the Burial. The Padre’s flag was laid on the High Altar and the Prince of Wales laid a replica of the original wreath on the grave. Due to Covid guidelines, a week before Queen Elizabeth II had visited the grave privately in the empty Abbey to lay a replica of her bridal bouquet on the grave.

“It was an inspirational idea – the idea of bringing back someone who could have been anybody – to allow those families, the daughters, sisters, the wives, to think, ‘you never know, he could be mine’. I think the Unknown Warrior gave so much hope to people. It allowed them to grieve.” Danielle Crozier – curator.

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