11th Nov 1920: The Cenotaph unveiled & the Unknown Warrior laid to rest

On the morning of 11th November 1920, the casket of the Unknown Warrior was placed onto a gun carriage of the Royal Horse Artillery and drawn by six horses through immense and silent crowds. As the cortege set off, a further Field Marshal’s salute was fired in Hyde Park. The route followed was Hyde Park Corner, The Mall, and to Whitehall where the newly constructed Portland stone Cenotaph, a “symbolic empty tomb”, was unveiled by King George V. The King placed his wreath of red roses and bay leaves on the coffin. His card read “In proud memory of those Warriors who died unknown in the Great War. Unknown, and yet well-known; as dying, and behold they live. George R.I. November 11th 1920”. The cortège was then followed by The King, the Royal Family and ministers of state to Westminster Abbey.

The casket was borne into Westminster Abbey flanked by a guard of honour of one hundred recipients of the Victoria Cross. The guests of honour were a group of one hundred women. They had been chosen because they had each lost their husband and all their sons in the war. The coffin was then interred in the far western end of the Nave, only a few feet from the entrance, in soil brought in a 100 bags from each of the main Western Front battlefields. A temporary stone was placed on top before the unveiling of the present Belgian black marble stone from a quarry near Namur at the remembrance service year later.

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