Saturday, 28 March 2020

Funeral of an Unknown Warrior.

As well as enjoying taking my own photographs, I also enjoy collecting old postcards, pictures, negatives and slides. I thought it might be of interest to start showing them on here alongside my own.

I thought I would start with these 2 postcards which were taken on the 11th November 1920 during the funeral of the unknown warrior.

The unknown warrior was selected by Brigadier L.J. Wyatt who was given a choice of soldiers whose remains had been exhumed from various battlefields and brought to a chapel at Saint Pol sur Ternoise, France on the night of November 7th 1920. Brigadier Wyatt was accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel E.A.S. Gell and neither man knew which battlefield each soldiers remains had been exhumed from. The remains had been placed in individual coffins covered by Union Flags, Brigadier Wyatt closed his eyes and rested his hand on one of the coffins which was then selected. The other soldiers remains were then taken away for reburial overseen by the Reverend George Kendall OBE.

The coffin of the unknown warrior then remained in the chapel overnight, and was transferred the following day with a guard and escort, as well as troops lining the route to the castle library, within the ancient citadel at Boulogne where it was guarded overnight by a company of soldiers from the French 8th Infantry Regiment.

On the 9th November 1920 the coffin was places within a casket made from oak timbers of trees within the grounds of Hampton Court Place. The casket was then affixed with a sword chosen personally by King George V from the Royal Collection and banded with iron. The shield that was fixed upon the top of the sword and casket bared the inscription "A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country". The coffin was then drawn by six black horses on a French military wagon for the mile long journey to the harbour, The wagon being escorted by local schoolchildren and a division of French troops. The French infantry playing Aux Champs as the coffin left Boulogne.

The casket was met at the harbour by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Verdun, and was piped aboard with the admirals call, whilst Marshal Foch the commander of the French Armies during the Great War saluted the casket before it was carried up the gangway. The ship left around noon and was joined by an escort of 6 battleships for it's journey across the channel. As the flotilla approached Dover it was greeted by a 19 gun Field Marshals salute.

The casket was landed on the 10th November and travelled from Dover Marine Railway Station to Victoria Station, London where it was to arrive at Platform 8 at 8.32 pm and remain overnight.

Placed on a gun carriage and drawn by 6 horses the casket began it's final journey on the morning of 11 November 1920 passing through large, silent and respectful crowds. Upon departure from Victoria, there was another Field Marshals salute fired in Hype Park. The cortege route passed Hyde Park Corner, The Mall and Whitehall where King George V unveiled the Cenotaph. It was then followed by the King, the Royal Family and ministers of state to Westminster Abbey where it was interred in the far western end of the nave, in soil brought from each of the main Great War battlefields. The grave is capped with a black Belgian marble stone and is the only tomb within Westminster Abbey that people are forbidden to walk. The ceremony included a guard of honour by 100 recipients of the Victoria Cross. The guest of honour at the service were a group of about 100 women who had lost their husbands and all their sons in the war. After internment the armed forces stood guard as tens of thousands of mourners filed past to pay their respects.

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