Language selection


Tomb Of The Unknown Warrior

 Composite image of the outside of Westminster Abbey, and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior surrounded by flowers

Inside the west entrance of Westminster Abbey in London, a hallowed grave in the Chapel of the Holy contains the remains of an Unknown Warrior. The remains represent the great number of men and women who gave their lives in the First World War while serving in the forces of the British Commonwealth. Whether the remains are those of a sailor, a soldier, or an airman and whether he fought in the forces of Great Britain, or one of the Dominions, or of a British Colony, nobody knows. The tomb is a symbol of the gallantry and sacrifice of all the Commonwealth war dead.

The inspiration to have a nameless warrior buried in Westminster Abbey came to a British Army Chaplain, the Reverend David Railton, M.C. In the garden of his billet near Armentières stood a simple wooden cross bearing the pencilled inscription, "An Unknown British Soldier". After the war Reverend Railton's idea was accepted. In November 1920, six unidentified bodies were taken from the plains of Flanders and the rolling terrain of Artois and Picardy (areas not only terribly familiar to soldiers from Canada and the other parts of the Commonwealth, but which also included battlefields on which the Royal Naval Division had fought). In a temporary hut-chapel at St. Pol, in Northern France, a blindfolded senior officer selected one of the identical coffins, which was then brought to Boulogne and placed aboard a British destroyer, while a French destroyer stood by in tribute. In the passage across the Channel, six other destroyers of the Royal Navy escorted the ship carrying the Unknown Warrior.

The funeral took place on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920. Behind the gun carriage bearing the coffin walked King George V and his three sons. The honorary pallbearers included the highest-ranking officers of the Royal Navy, the British Army, and the Royal Air Force. On the way to the Abbey the solemn procession paused at Whitehall, where His Majesty unveiled the Cenotaph to "The Glorious Dead". Following this impressive ceremony the body of the Unknown Warrior was borne to Westminster Abbey and there committed to its final resting-place and covered with soil brought from the battlefields in one hundred sandbags.

At the foot of the tomb are engraved words suggested by David Railton:


This tomb is the scene, each year, of a remembrance service attended by the highest in the land, as well as by the citizens of the Commonwealth who come in thousands to file past the silent grave.


Inside the west entrance of Westminster Abbey, between St. Margaret and Victoria Streets, in London, a hallowed grave in the Chapel of the Holy contains the remains of an Unknown Warrior.

Date modified: