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Remembered Today:

Army chaplain who took the Unknown Warrior’s secret to his grave


trajan
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That was gem Trajan,

Thank you for posting it.

G

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" He kept his darker reminiscences – including the gangs of deserters still on the run after the war, living on their wits in abandoned ruins of Belgian villages, who fired on him at point blank range but missed – for the memoir. " ?

Mike

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Thanks for posting Trajan. It is intriguing that George Kendall sources state there were six bodies selected. It was something that caught my attention when his family were on the Antique Roadshow, some months back. I have just re-read some of the relevant chapter of Neil Hanson 'The Unknown Soldier' (2005), that says there were four bodies selected from the four major battlefields: Aisne, Arras, Somme and Ypres. Hanson's book also shows no indication that George Kendall was involved in the decision making process or the exhumation process. He did apparently receive the bodies into the hut/chapel of St. Pol, where they were re-examined to ensure that they contained no means of identification. Kendall left the chapel and it was secured with an armed guard at the door. Later, Brig. Wyatt and Lt. Col. Gell went through the process of selecting which body was to be the 'Unknown Warrior'. Hanson does seem to indicate that documentation exists regarding minuted meetings about the selection and exhumation process before things got underway.

Perhaps Brig. Wyatt produced his own memoirs. I've not located any but if he did, they would be interesting to contrast and compare with those of Kendall on the subject when the latter are eventually published. The only thing I can find from Wyatt are his private papers at the IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030013926. It's a pity the IWM don't go down the route of TNA and digitise their holdings for purchase & download. I expect Kendall's memoirs, will make interesting reading on many other aspects of the war. It would be nice if they were published in their entirety and not edited to bits.

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I remember that we had quite a discussion about this on the forum a few years ago, and the thread is Here - if you look at post 25 we find some extra details about why and how the six bodies were gathered, prior to the final selection.

William

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Hmmm I think there have been a few threads on the subject of the 'Unknown Warrior'. I noticed in the thread William has linked to, that post no.4 states six bodies and Cambrai and Marne mentioned - unfortunately no source to that information is given that I can see. Others who have posted in that thread say four. I also noticed that Hanson's book is heavily quoted there but not always correctly.

There is even a link within that thread to a transcribed account of Sir Cecil Smith, a subaltern at the time, who was involved with the task of the removal of the other bodies not selected, of which there were three.

I suspect that if Kendall's account, when published states six, it will raise many questions on the subject. That, like many things to do with the Great War, may never be truly resolved. There seem to be more cases stating four than six but then it is the quality not quantity of the sources that count.

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Great story and as the Rev says this soldier is representative of all unknown soldiers who gave their all.It's a tribute to the man that he kept this secret to his death,very much a man of honour.

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Of course he took the secret to the grave, and why would we ever want to know his identity?

Mike

Here here Mike and I will scorn those that want to know, why anyone would want to know is just totally beyond me.

Jon

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Here here Mike and I will scorn those that want to know, why anyone would want to know is just totally beyond me.

Jon

Interesting. I wonder how many people would want to know ? When you consider things like . . . .

1. Great efforts are made to discover the identity of remains now unearthed - why should the ma in Westminster Abbey be denied a known grave . . . . .

2. . . . . . there has been general support for identifying executed soldiers.

3. . . . . . . Michael Glyndwr (Major Martin RM - Op Mincemeat) has been finally identified

4. . . . . . we'd all like to know who Jack the Ripper was . . . .

. . . . then there would seem to be an interest in revealing "mysteries".

Me? No, I don't want to know, but by the same token I cannot say that widespread public curiosity is "totally beyond me".

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Surely this is nonsnse.

After 1918 he took on the grim task of exhuming all the bodies buried where they fell in Belgium, from fields, ditches, and the ruins of buildings, and moving them to the new war grave cemeteries. The appalling work led to his taking up pipe smoking, to help counteract the smell as they dug up rotting bodies and picked through scraps of uniform for clues. He was, therefore, uniquely qualified when charged with finding, exhuming, and bringing to St Pol near Arras the bodies from whom the Unknown Warrior was chosen and transferred to Dover on HMS Verdun.

It makes it sound as if he was in sole charge, and indeed as he did the exhumations himself. I know little about the topic but it may well be that he was in some way attached to the process, but he wouldnt have been responsible and was surely, if attached, part of a team of chaplains involved?

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Interesting. I wonder how many people would want to know ? When you consider things like . . . .

1. Great efforts are made to discover the identity of remains now unearthed - why should the ma in Westminster Abbey be denied a known grave . . . . . Because he represents them all. They could have used the body of John Smith from London, but they chose to use a man who's identity would remain forever unknown. Why not dig him up and use DNA to identify him?

I cannot say that widespread public curiosity is "totally beyond me". Nor can I, but just because we can, doesn't mean we should?

Mike

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Identifying the Unknown Soldier would in my mind devalue a major part of the remembrance process, he represents all those with no known grave, he represents all the widows and orphans, he represents all those broken families,h is name is not mysterious it is unknown and should remain unknown

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