Unknown Warrior - Westminster Abbey, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 29.985 W 000° 07.636
30U E 699386 N 5709314
Quick Description: The Medal of Honor was bestowed upon the Unknown Warrior whose remains lie in Westminster Abbey. It was awarded by an act of Congress approved 4 March 1921.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 10/28/2020 11:45:51 AM
Waymark Code: WM13AVX
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member ScroogieII
Views: 2

Long Description:

The memorial stone is set into the floor of the nave. Made from black, Belgian marble it carries the inscription:

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

The Medal of Honor Museum website and the  Westminster Abbey website advise:

 * * * By virtue of an act of Congress approved 4 March 1921, the Medal of Honor, emblem of highest ideals and virtues, is bestowed in the name of the Congress of the United States upon the unknown, unidentified British soldier and French soldier buried, respectively, in Westminster Abbey and Arc de Triomphe.

Whereas: Great Britain and France, two of the Allies of the United States in the World War, have lately done honor to the unknown dead of their armies by placing with fitting ceremony the body of an unknown, unidentified soldier, respectively, in Westminster Abbey and in the Arc de Triomphe; and

Whereas: animated by the same spirit of comradeship in which we of the American forces fought alongside these Allies, we desire to add whatever we can to the imperishable glory won by the deeds of our Allies and commemorated in part by this tribute to their unknown dead: Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States of America be, and he hereby is, authorized to bestow with appropriate ceremonies, military and civil, the Medal of Honor upon the unknown, unidentified British soldier buried in Westminster Abbey, London, England, and upon the unknown, unidentified French soldier buried in the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France (A.G. 220.523) (War Department General Orders, No. 52, 1 Dec. 1922, Sec. II).


At the west end of the Nave of Westminster Abbey is the grave of the Unknown Warrior, whose body was brought from France to be buried here on 11th November 1920. The grave, which contains soil from France, is covered by a slab of black Belgian marble from a quarry near Namur.

Around the main inscription are four texts:

    (top) THE LORD KNOWETH THEM THAT ARE HIS,

    (sides) GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS
    UNKNOWN AND YET WELL KNOWN, DYING AND BEHOLD WE LIVE,

    (base) IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE.

Selecting the Unknown Warrior

The idea of such a burial seems first to have come to a chaplain at the Front, the Reverend David Railton (1884-1955), when he noticed in 1916 in a back garden at Armentières, a grave with a rough cross on which were pencilled the words "An Unknown British Soldier". In August 1920 he wrote to the Dean of Westminster, Herbert Ryle, through whose energies this memorial was carried into effect. The body was chosen from unknown British servicemen exhumed from four battle areas, the Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres. (some sources say six bodies but confirmed accounts say four).

The remains were brought to the chapel at St. Pol on the night of 7th November 1920. The General Officer in charge of troops in France and Flanders, Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt, with Colonel Gell, went into the chapel alone, where the bodies on stretchers were covered by Union Flags. They had no idea from which area the bodies had come. General Wyatt selected one and the two officers placed it in a plain coffin and sealed it. The other three bodies were reburied. General Wyatt said they were re-buried at the St Pol cemetery but Lt. (later Major General Sir) Cecil Smith says they were buried beside the Albert-Baupaume road to be discovered there by parties searching for bodies in the area.

In the morning Chaplains of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Non-Conformist churches held a service in the chapel before the body was escorted to Boulogne to rest overnight. The next day the coffin was placed inside another which had been sent over specially from England made of two-inch thick oak from a tree which had grown in Hampton Court Palace garden, lined with zinc. It was covered with the flag that David Railton had used as an altar cloth during the War (known as the Ypres or Padre's Flag, which now hangs in St George's Chapel). Within the wrought iron bands of this coffin had been placed a 16th century crusader's sword from the Tower of London collection. The inner coffin shell was made by Walter Jackson of the firm of Ingall, Parsons & Clive Forward at Harrow, north London and the larger coffin was supplied by the undertakers in charge of the arrangements, Nodes & Son.

The coffin plate bore the inscription:

  "A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country."

The ironwork and coffin plate were made by D.J. Williams of the Brunswick Ironworks at Caernarfon in Wales. The destroyer HMS Verdun, whose ship's bell was presented to the Abbey and now hangs near the grave, transported the coffin to Dover and it was then taken by train to Victoria station in London where it rested overnight.

The grave was filled in, using 100 sandbags of earth from the battlefields, on 18th November and then covered by a temporary stone with a gilded inscription on it:

"A BRITISH WARRIOR WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918 FOR KING AND COUNTRY. GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS."

New stone and the Congressional Medal

On 11th November 1921 the present black marble stone was unveiled at a special service. The stone (size 7 feet by 4 feet 3 inches, depth 6 inches) was supplied and lettered by Mr Tomes of Acton and the brass for the inscription supplied by Nash & Hull. Benjamin Colson carried out the brass work. The Padre's Flag was also formerly dedicated at this service.

General Pershing, on behalf of the United States of America, conferred the Congressional Medal of Honor on the Unknown Warrior on 17th October 1921 and this now hangs in a frame on a pillar near the grave. In October 2013 the Congressional Medal of Honor Society presented the Society's official flag to the Unknown Warrior and this is framed below the medal.

The body of the Unknown Warrior may be from any of the three services, Army, Navy or Air Force, and from any part of the British Isles, Dominions or Colonies and represents all those who died who have no other memorial or known grave.

Note:

With the re-opening of Westminster Abbey after Covid-19 lockdown photography, for private use, has been allowed in most areas of the Abbey when services are not taking place (see here). There is an entry fee payable to enter the Abbey that is currently £18 for an adult (October, 2020).

Armed Service: Other

Visit Instructions:
To properly log your find, post a photograph of the medal recipient's grave marker. Do not place anything on the grave when taking the photo. If you have more information about the recipient please include it in your log.

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