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The Cenotaph and the Unknown Soldier

Discussion in 'World War One Forum' started by brianw, Mar 12, 2014.

  1. brianw

    brianw Member

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    The Cenotaph


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    The word ‘Cenotaph’ means empty tomb, and true to its name, our Cenotaph in Whitehall is just that.

    Design by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial cenotaph was first erected on the spot for the World War 1 victory parade on 19 July 1919 and was originally a wood and plaster construction.

    Following the parade it was intended that the temporary structure would be removed, however the public had already adopted it as a national memorial to remember the fallen of the war and covered the ground around it with floral tributes. By the 30th July, the government of the day decided that such a national monument was really necessary and so the wooden structure was finally replaced with the Cenotaph of Portland Stone which we see today.

    It was unveiled by King George V on 11th November 1920 for the parade and ceremony for the laying to rest of The Unknown Soldier. The Cenotaph has never been dedicated or consecrated since it is in remembrance of all of the fallen, irrespective of race, rank, creed or religion, not just Christians.

    Originally intended as the memorial to the fallen of the 1914-18 War it is now our national monument to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation including the Second World War and other wars and conflicts since.



    The Unknown Soldier.


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    The bodies of 4 un-named British servicemen were solemnly exhumed from 4 of the major battlefield cemeteries of the Western Front in Northern France and on the 7th November 1920 were brought to a chapel near Arras where they were received by Rev George Kendall OBE.

    Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt and Lieutenant Colonel E.A.S. Gell of the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries (nowadays known as The War Graves Commission) went into the chapel alone where the four bodies were laid out on stretchers, each draped with a Union Flag. Wyatt covered his eyes (there were rumours that he was actually blindfolded) with one hand and laid his other hand on one of the covered bodies.

    While the other bodies were reburied in the battlefield cemeteries, the chosen body was returned to Britain with the full military honours reserved for a Field Marshal, an Admiral whilst the casket was aboard HMS Verdun. It was returned to Dover under escort of six battleships on the 10th November. The casket was taken by rail to Victoria Station where it remained overnight.

    On the morning of 11th November 1920 the Unknown Soldier was placed on a gun carriage drawn by 6 horses of the Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery and taken to Westminster Abbey by the route of Hyde Park Corner, The Mall, into Whitehall, passed the Cenotaph and on to Parliament Square and to the West Door of the Abbey where it was interred in soil brought from the battlefield of France. The grave, just feet from the door is capped with black marble and is the only tombstone in the Abbey on which it is forbidden to walk.

    The inscription on the tombstone is etched in brass from melted down war munitions and 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​

    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)​

    Was he a volunteer or conscript?
    Was he an officer, NCO or enlisted man?
    Was he a father?
    Was he a brother?
    Who knows but he was a mother’s son.
    He was and is every mother’s son, a nation’s son. The Unknown Soldier is every service man and woman who has given their lives for their country and in the name of the freedom we all enjoy today.


    The Unknown Warrior - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Cenotaph, Whitehall - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Excellent Brian .. It is hard to believe what went into making this happen. I wonder if the people of its time knew that this iconic build would mean so much almost 100 years later.
     

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