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The Grave of the Unknown Warrior

The Grave of the Unknown Warrior

The Grave of the Unknown Warrior is at the west end of the nave. It is a black marble gravestone encircled by red poppies with an inscription in brass letters which commemorates the many thousands killed in the 1914-18 war that have no grave.

The grave has the remains of an unidentified serviceman taken from the battlefields of the First World War. The idea came from an army chaplain, David Railton, who had noticed in a garden at Armentieres a grave with a rough cross bearing the words ‘An Unknown British Solider’. In the aftermath of the war the grave became especially symbolic to the bereaved whose husbands, fathers or sons had no known burial place.

The Unknown Warrior was buried on 11 November 1920 in the presence of King George V and other members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet and the chiefs of the armed forces. A hundred holders of the Victoria Cross formed a guard of honour through the nave. The grave contains soil from France and the Union Flag, known as ‘the Padre’s Flag’, which covered the coffin on its journey from France, hangs in St George’s Chapel. It was presented in 1921 by David Railton, who had used it as a coffin pall and altar cloth during his war service. Other artefacts associated with the Unknown Warrior are near by: the ship’s bell from HMS Verdun, the destroyer that brought the Warrior’s body to England, was presented in 1990 and hangs on a pillar to the south; on a pillar to the north hangs the Congressional Medal of Honor, conferred by the USA in 1921.

The inscription on the grave reads:

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