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Remembered Today:

Journey of Unknown Soldier to London 1920


Guest Brigo

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I have searched fruitlessly to find out which route to London was taken by the train carrying the coffin of the Unknown Soldier from Dover to Victoria? I want to know if it passed along through the Folkestone stations before heading up to London. It would seem fitting that it did, as thousands of troops passed through the stations on their way to France. If I could find out if this was the route, I can start a search of local newspapers for photos of the crowds that gathered at stations along the route.

Many thanks

Brigo

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According to Brian Janes 'The Unknown Warrior and the Cavell Van' the train was scheduled to stop at the Dover stations, Kearsney, Shepherdswell, Adisham, Canterbury East, Faversham, Sittingbourne, Gillingham and Chatham before being transferred. Van No.132 today:

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Thanks Khaki. I just finished writing a long history of the Van and lost my internet connection :devilgrin: This is the abbreviated version;

Van No.132 was built as a prototype for the South Eastern & Chatham Railway and put into service in early 1919. Used during the repatriation of the remains of Nurse Edith Cavell in May of that year, it would perform the same duties in July for that of Captain Fryatt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Fryatt In 1920 it would carry the coffin of The Unknown Soldier.

Removed from service in 1946 to become a stores van, before being re-numbered and redeployed until the late 1960's. Discovered in 1992 by a group of entusiasts who had no idea of its history, it was purchased and delivered to the Kent & East Sussex Railway. Disputes of ownership saw it moved to Robertsbridge in 1994 where again it began to deteriorate. In 2003 it was purchased by John Miller, the curator at the K&ESR Museum, and with the help of Heritage Lottery funding was brought back to life. Hope that is of help.

Regards,

Sean.

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thanks so much for that info - very helpful. Have been to Bodiam to see the van - there is something very fitting about the fact that you can only get to see it by taking another (steam) train. Very evocative in such a peaceful setting, and somehow I came away with the feeling that there is lots of info inside the van without taking away from its stark dignity......

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I didn't know it even existed

Neither did I until recently :thumbsup:

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Maybe that will be the exciting challenge for the future, discovering Great War icons that we thought were gone forever, now if we could just locate the barrels for the 'Paris Guns"!!!

khaki

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I know that four unknowns were chosen one picked where are the other three buried

Biff :blush::poppy:

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I know that four unknowns were chosen one picked where are the other three buried

Biff :blush::poppy:

According to Brigadier-General Wyatt (one of two officers who selected the remains) in a letter to the Daily Telegraph 11 November 1939 the other bodies were buried in the cemetery in St Pol.

However, in a later, and given the process and secrecy of the ritual, probably more accurate account the area had been the scene of heavy fighting and was marked by shell craters and 'old trenches running in all directions. The burial party quickly selected a spot and…the three bodies were buried in a shell hole on the road to Albert, to which the chaplain added a simple prayer' Sir Cecil Smith to the Dean of Westminster 1978.

In the latter account it was intended they would be found by Grave Registration details and dealt with as 'unknowns'.

Both accounts cited in Neil Hanson's 'The Unknown Soldier' and on the Westminster Abbey website http://www.westminst...unknown-warrior

They were skeletal remains or 'mere bones' as decomposition had to be well advanced, so probably dated from earlier in the War.

Ken

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I never knew of this van's existence and the role it played in the 3 significant events detailed.

Isn't one goods wagon as suitable as any other?

What made it so "special" to be used in these 3 repatriations?

Now I'm going off to research a bit more, like how to get there!

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According to Brigadier-General Wyatt (one of two officers who selected the remains) in a letter to the Daily Telegraph 11 November 1939 the other bodies were buried in the cemetery in St Pol.

Similarly, the French soldiers not chosen were buried at Faubourg Pave Cemetery, Verdun. The seven men were buried around the base of the large cross. Apparently, the burials of the French and British Unknown Soldiers took place at the same time?

Regards,

Sean.

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Why do we (and NZ - and maybe one or 2 others) refer to our unknown soldier as the Unknown Warrior? Who decided upon warrior rather than soldier?

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Isn't one goods wagon as suitable as any other?

What made it so "special" to be used in these 3 repatriations?

Now I'm going off to research a bit more, like how to get there!

As mentioned, Van No.132 was brand new when Edith Cavell's body was repatriated. Due to the success of that event and the fact that Captain Fryatt's body was repatriated only a matter of months later, Van No.132 must have seemed like an obvious choice of carraige? After that, the vehicle of choice for the Unknown Soldier must have been a no-brainer. When you do visit, a couple of hundred yards down the road is Bodiam Castle, well worth a visit also.

Regards,

Sean.

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After the Battle magazine featured the repatriation in issues 6 (pages 48 -53) and 86 (page 11) according to the index available on their web site. There may well be photographs of the cortege leaving the arrival port.

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After the Battle magazine featured the repatriation in issues 6 (pages 48 -53) and 86 (page 11) according to the index available on their web site. There may well be photographs of the cortege leaving the arrival port.

Some contemporary images of the 'Cavell' or 'Special Van'on the WFA Appeal site from 2010

http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/news/newsflash/1087-cavell-van-appeal.html

and the KESR site chronicling the restoration

http://www.kesr.org.uk/news-2013/previous-news/77-visitor/previous-news-2010/191-cavell-van-restoration

and although the van is not shown this moving Pathe newsreel reports the Unknown Warrior's journey from France to the Abbey

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/armistice-day-1920-aka-armistice-day-in-london/query/unknown+warrior

[link takes a while to load]

Ken

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There are various photos of the journey of the coffin available for viewing in the IWM collection Click these include the arrival at Dover, loading on to HMS Verdun, on board HMS Verdun, the procession through Boulogne, at the Cenotaph, the arrival at Westminster Abbey as well as pictures of the Coffin; there is one image said to be of the 'selection of bodies'.

A previous thread, provoked by an article published in the Telegraph Magazine in 2008, discussed the treatment of the bodies not selected. Click

There are some BBC webpages on the saving & restoration of the Railway carriage Click & Click; apparently the replica coffin in the carriage had the iron work made by the same firm (Brunswick Ironworks, Caernarfon) that produced the original Click and the IWM is supposed to have another duplicate set made at the time of the originals - it doesn't show in a search of their collection though - which featured in an Antiques Roadshow programme (no longer available) in 2010 Click There are also copies of a couple of photographs of the original coffin belonging to the Brunswick Ironworks on The Oxford University First World War Poetry Digital Archive Click

NigelS

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Why do we (and NZ - and maybe one or 2 others) refer to our unknown soldier as the Unknown Warrior? Who decided upon warrior rather than soldier?

Gareth

I'm probably being fanciful but I wonder whether the choice of 'warrior' reflected the elevated medieval style of the accoutrements. A coffin made from oaks from Hampton Court; a medieval crusader sword from the royal collection selected by the king; the inscription in heavy neo-gothic script on a shield; the tombstone reference 'they buried him among the kings'. 'Warrior' just seems to fit this so much better than the more simple 'soldier'

As I say, probably all rot but it's a thought

David

Edited by ridgus
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Why do we (and NZ - and maybe one or 2 others) refer to our unknown soldier as the Unknown Warrior? Who decided upon warrior rather than soldier?

I was interested by this, also.

Using the British Newspaper Archive as a guide, in 1920 the term "Unknown Solder" was used 89 times, and the term "Unknown Warrior" 264 times.

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'Warrior' is just that bit more high-flown and emotive than the prosaic 'Soldier' and you only have to watch the footage of the 1920 ceremony to sense the highly charged and emotional atmosphere of the occasion

David

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest ozymandias32

I have read, but can't give a citation, that the party sent out to select the bodies were required to provide at least one dressed in the uniform of the RFC/RAF and one from the Royal Naval Division. He is supposed to represent all those who fought and died in the war, not just the army, and could well be an airman or even, technically, a sailor. Hence "Warrior" in the official description even though "Soldier" seems to have taken over in the minds of the general public. As an ex-crab, it is nice to think that he might be wearing a pair of wings very similar to the ones I used to wear.

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I have read, but can't give a citation, that the party sent out to select the bodies were required to provide at least one dressed in the uniform of the RFC/RAF and one from the Royal Naval Division. He is supposed to represent all those who fought and died in the war, not just the army, and could well be an airman or even, technically, a sailor. Hence "Warrior" in the official description even though "Soldier" seems to have taken over in the minds of the general public. As an ex-crab, it is nice to think that he might be wearing a pair of wings very similar to the ones I used to wear.

The practical criteria was that the bodies should have been in an advanced stage of decomposition and the church authorities made it a condition the body should come from 1914. The bodies from 19i4 were easily identifiable, as were those from successive years of the war, i.e. cloth caps, respirators etc. 'According to Neil Hanson in 'The Unknown Warrior', "The Army had originally proposed that a body should be taken from an area where the RND had fought, but they had not been deployed in 1914, therefore the Navy waived it's rights, leaving the army free to make it's own arrangements…"

The RFC was, of course an Army Corps in 1914.

Ken

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As you may already know,there is a plaque by platform 8 at Victoria Station which reads "The Body of the British Unknown Warrior arrived at platform 8 at 8.32pm on the 10th November 1920 and lay here overnight before interment at Westminster Abbey on 11th November 1920".

The London branch of the Western Front Association organises an annual ceremony at Victoria Station on 10 November to commemorate the arrival of the Unknown Warrior. Wreaths are laid, the Last Post is sounded and there is a minute's silence during which time there are no station announcements.

Moriaty

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