As we approach Remembrance Sunday we reflect on the service and sacrifice of all those that have defended our freedoms and protected our way of life. We remember the Armed Forces, and their families, from Britain and the Commonwealth, the vital role played by the emergency services and those that have lost their lives as a result of conflict or terrorism.
To mark this poignant day we wanted to share the below text which brings home the personal and human meaning behind wearing a poppy.
On November 7th, 1920, in strictest secrecy, four unidentified British bodies were exhumed from temporary battlefield cemeteries at Ypres, Arras, the Aisne and the Somme. None of the soldiers that were involved in the digging were told why. The bodies were taken by field ambulance to GCHQ at St-Pol-Sur-Ternoise. Once there the bodies were draped in the union flag. Sentries were posted and Brigadier-General Wyatt and Colonel Gell selected one body at random, the other three were reburied. A French honour guard was selected and stood by the coffin of the chosen soldier overnight. On the morning of the 8th of November, a specially designed coffin made of oak from the grounds of Hampton Court arrived and the Unknown Warrior was placed inside. On top was placed a sword and a shield on which was inscribed:
“A British Warrior who fell in the GREAT WAR 1914-1918. For King and Country”.
On the 9th of November, the Unknown Warrior was taken by horse-drawn carriage through Guards of Honour, the sound of tolling bells and bugle calls to the quayside. There he was received by Marechal Foch and loaded onto HMS Verdun (named in honour of the French army’s endurance in the Battle of Verdun 1916) and bound for Dover. The coffin stood on the deck covered in wreaths, surrounded by the French Honour Guard.
Upon arrival at Dover, The Unknown Warrior was met with a nineteen-gun salute (something normally reserved for Field Marshalls). A special train had been arranged and he was then conveyed to Victoria Station, London. He remained there overnight and on the morning of the 11th of November, he was finally taken to Westminster Abbey and laid to rest. At the same time France interred their own Unknown Warrior in the Arc de Triomphe.
The idea of the unknown warrior was thought of by a Padre called David Railton who had served on the front line during the Great War and the union flag he used as an alter cloth whilst at the front was the one that had been draped over the coffin.
It was his intention that all the relatives of the 517,773 combatants whose bodies had not been identified could believe the Unknown Warrior could very well be their lost husband, father, brother, or son…
This is the reason we wear poppies. Not to glorify war. We remember with humility the great and the ultimate sacrifices that were made, not just in this war, but in every war or conflict where we have fought to ensure the liberty and freedoms that we take for granted.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.