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The origins of "The Unknown Soldier" a moving story, honouring the dead of WWI 1914-1918. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month; we remember.

The coffin of "The Unknown Soldier" Westminster Abbey, London 11.11.1918
The coffin of "The Unknown Soldier"
Westminster Abbey, London
11.11.1918
We all know what Armistice Day is all about (The end of WWI. 11.11. 1918), the significance
of the poppy, and what The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents (To remember soldiers slain in war, all over the world), but the origins of this tomb, one of the most honoured in the world, are less known, as is a name seldom, if ever mentioned, that of Reverend David Railton.

What a beautiful story it is, a story of compassion, a story of empathy, a story never to be forgotten.

When Reverend David Railton, serving as army Chaplin, on the Western Front, during WWI,
 came across the grave of a fallen soldier, marked only with a humble wooden cross, 
bearing the words; “A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 for King and 
Country', scribbled in pencil, it broke his heart.


Reverend David Railton MC MA, (13 November 1884 – 13 June 1955) was a Church of England clergyman, a Military chaplain and the originator of the idea of the tomb of The Unknown Warrior
Reverend David Railton MC MA, (13 November 1884 – 13 June 1955).
 Church of England clergyman, a Military chaplain and the originator of the idea of the tomb of The Unknown Warrior

The scene played on Reverend Railton’s mind, “There must be some way, in which the
thousands of brave soldiers, who have died fighting for their country, can be honored and
 remembered forever” he thought.

Carnage: Amid the appalling devastation and bodies of dead soldiers, a crucifix stands tall
 Amid the appalling devastation and bodies of dead soldiers, a crucifix stands tall

In 1920 Reverend Railton, wrote to the Dean of Westminster, suggesting, “The Unknown
Soldier”, be buried, amongst the kings, in Westminster Abbey, to honour the thousands 
killed in WWI (1914-1918).

The Dean of Westminster took the advice of Reverend Railton, and plans were put into
 action, to bring the fallen of WWI home.

Remains of The Unknown Soldier. Exhumed in France, to be brought home to England.
Remains of The Unknown Soldier.
Exhumed in France, to be brought home to England.

The remains of  "The Unknown Soldier"  were exhumed from separate battlefields of WWI,
 and taken to the chapel of Saint-Pol-Sur-Ternoise, near Arras, in France.

First monument, in Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, In honour of the dead of WWI
First monument, in Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise,
In honour of the dead of WWI

On the evening of the seventh of November 1920, in the presence of Reverend George
 Kendall, Brigadier L.J. Wyatt and Lieutenant E.A.S. Gell, the remains were placed in six 
plain coffins, and, covered with the Union Jack.

Brigadier Wyatt closed his eyes, passed his hand over the six coffins, and then, touched
one of the coffins.

The coffin Brigadier Wyatt chose, stayed in the chapel overnight, the five other coffins, were
 taken away, to be buried by Reverend Kendall.

On the eighth of November, the remains of “The Unknown Soldier” were transported to a
medieval castle in Boulogne, where undertakers, placed the coffin into a casket made from
 the wood of oak trees from Hampton Court, England.

The medieval Castle of Boulogne France
The medieval Castle of Boulogne
France
The casket was banded with iron, and a medieval crusader’s sword, from the royal 
collection, chosen by King George V himself, was placed on top of the coffin, together with
 an iron shield, inscribed with the words;

“A British Warrior who fell in the Great War”

The casket was placed on a military wagon, and, drawn by six black horses, made its way to
 the harbour; the mile-long procession, led by over a thousand French school children and 
French troops, accompanied by the sound of the tolling bells of Boulogne.


On 10 November 1920, the coffin holding the body of the Unknown Warrior was taken to Boulogne where HMS 'Verdun' lay waiting to bring him home to Britain.
On 10 November 1920, the coffin holding the body of the Unknown Warrior was taken to Boulogne where HMS 'Verdun' lay waiting to bring him home to Britain.

Once the cortege reached the harbor, it was put aboard HMS Verdun, which, escorted by six
battle ships, made its way home to England, on reaching Dover, it received a nineteen Field
Marshal’s salute.

The coffin containing the remains of the Unknown Warrior on the Quay Chanzy alongside HMS Verdun.   Boulogne Harbour.
The coffin containing the remains of the Unknown Warrior on the Quay Chanzy alongside HMS Verdun.
 Boulogne Harbour.


 The remains of “The Unknown Soldier” touched English soil at ten thirty on the morning of 
the tenth of November, at Dover Marine Railway Station, and were carried, aboard  "South 
Eastern and Chatham Railway General Utility Van No.132", to Victoria Station, London.


The Unknown Warrior being removed from HMS Verdun by soldiers, a sailor and an airman.
The Unknown Warrior being removed from HMS Verdun by soldiers, a sailor and an airman. 

The van in which the body of the Unknown Warrior was carried, before restoration in 2010.
The van in which the body of the Unknown Warrior was carried, before restoration in 2010.


The remains of this brave warrior arrived at Victoria Station, platform eight, at eight thirty two in the evening, and remained there overnight.

On the morning of November the eleventh 1920, the casket was placed on an open gun 
carriage, of the Royal Horse Artillery, and drawn by six horses, along the route; Hyde Park
Corner, The Mall, and on to Whitehall, to the cenotaph, which was unveiled by George V,
the cortege then started the last leg of its journey, to Westminster Abbey.


 The coffin of the unknown warrior is carried to Westminster Abbey
 The coffin of the unknown warrior is carried to Westminster Abbey

'Unveiling of the Cenotaph London and funeral of the Unknown Soldier,Armistice Day 1920
'Unveiling of the Cenotaph London and funeral of the Unknown Soldier,Armistice Day 1920

The casket of “The Unknown Soldier” entered the Abbey, surrounded by a guard of honour,
consisting of one hundred recipients of The Victoria Cross.

The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, November 1920
The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, November 1920 

About one hundred women, who had lost their husbands and all of their sons in the war,
 were the guests of honour.

The brave lad was finally laid to rest, at the far western end of the Abbey, near the
entrance, in soil brought from the main battle fields of the war.

He was home.

The ceremony to seal the grave of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey
The ceremony to seal the grave of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey

The grave of "The Unknown Soldier" is covered with black Belgian marble, with the
inscription, by Herbert Edward Ryle, Dean of Westminster, engraved with brass, made from
metal, melted down from war-time ammunition.

(The grave of "The Unknown Soldier" is the only one, in Westminster Abbey, not allowed to be walked over.)

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).


Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, laid her wedding bouquet at the tomb, when she married the future
King of England, George VI, twenty sixth April 1923, in memory of her brother, Fergus, who
 died at the battle of Loos in 1915.

Since then, bouquets of all royal brides, married in Westminster Abbey, are placed on the 
tomb, the day after the wedding.

The latest bouquet placed there, belonged to Catherine Middleton, who married, William, 
Duke of Cambridge, on the twenty ninth of April 2011.

Catherine's bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in London.
Catherine's bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in London.

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. After reading the poem, Moina Michael, a professor at the University of Georgia, wrote the poem, "We Shall Remember," and swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary. The custom spread to Europe and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth within three years. 
“The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” has been a place of mourning, for the dead of WWI,
ever since, each Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day, services are held and wreaths of
poppies are laid at the feet of those who served in the war to end all wars.

Sadly, The Great War, happened all over again, just a little over twenty years later.

What a truly moving story, and what a great shame, that the name of the compassionate 
Reverend Railton, has all but been forgotten.

 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Arc de Triomphe Paris
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arc de Triumph
Paris

Presidential Guard (Evzones) with the traditional winter uniform at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament. Constitution Square Platia Sintagmatos of Athens.
Presidential Guard (Evzones) with the traditional winter uniform at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament. Constitution Square Platia Sintagmatos of Athens.

"On June 30.  Greece officially entered World War I with the recall of the Greek  diplomatic  representatives.   The  Greek  government of Venizelos declared that it considered the country to be in a state of war on the side of the Allies as of November 1916 (when the original such declaration had been made by the revolutionary gov­ernment in Thessalonica). The 60,000 soldiers recruited by Venizelos in Crete, provided the core of the new army. Eventually 250,000 Greek soldiers saw action in the war, including the highly successful Vardar Offensive. During the war, the Greek Army had around 15,000 men killed and another 85,000 wounded."

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