The Grave of the Unknown Warrior

The Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey stands as a remarkable tribute not just to the fallen of the First World War but to the millions who have died since in international military conflict. On 7 November 1920 military search parties visited the battlefields of Ypres, the Marne, Cambai, Arras, the Somme, and the Aisne and exhumed unidentified bodies of soldiers who had been killed.

At midnight one was chosen by Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt, General Officer Commanding troops in France and Flanders. That body became the 'Unknown Warrior'. It was placed in a new coffin bearing the inscription A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 for King and Country.

The destroyer HMS Verdun, whose ship's bell now hangs near the Warrior’s grave, transported the coffin to Dover and it was then taken by train to London. On the morning of 11 November the coffin was placed on a gun carriage drawn by six black horses and taken to the north door of Westminster Abbey. It was borne to the west end of the Nave through a guard of honour of 100 holders of the Victoria Cross.

During the shortened form of the Burial Service, after the hymn Lead kindly light, the King stepped forward and dropped a handful of French earth onto the coffin as it was lowered into the grave. At the close of the service, after the hymn Abide with me and prayers, the congregation sang Rudyard Kipling's solemn Recessional God of our fathers after which the Reveille and Last Post were sounded by trumpeters. Servicemen kept watch while thousands of mourners filed past.

© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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