As the second anniversary of the end of the war approached
everything was ready for the unveiling of the permanent structure of
the cenotaph by the King. However, in October 1920 a letter arrived
at the Palace suggesting a sensational addition to the unveiling. The
body of an unidentified soldier should be dug up, brought to England
and buried in the Abbey. Classless, nameless, rankless and ageless,
this man would be “the silent ambassador of the legion dead to
the courts of the living”. After initial doubts the idea, originally
suggested by the Vicar of Margate, the Rev. David Railton, was approved.
On November 9th the bodies of six anonymous soldiers were exhumed from
the six main battlefields and a blindfolded officer was asked to touch
one of the six coffins. Thus was selected the ‘unknown soldier’.
On November 20th 1920, the ILN published its
‘Memorial Number to the Unknown Warrior’.
(Appendix list no.80).
In its pages are illustrated the whole ceremony of the funeral procession,
the unveiling of the cenotaph and the burial. The body was brought from
Ypres to Victoria Station and then taken in a cortege to Westminster.
The new cenotaph was chosen as a central point in the funeral procession
and it was arranged that the King, as Chief Mourner, should await the
cortege there and unveil the cenotaph as Big Ben finished striking eleven.
After this ceremony we follow the coffin to Westminster Abbey where
it is lowered into a grave filled with soil brought from France. A poignant
illustration shows the “Mecca of the Great Pilgrimage in memory
of loved ones lost in the war”. During the four days on which
Whitehall was closed to wheeled traffic over a million people passed
by the Cenotaph and the number of wreaths exceeded one hundred thousand.
The cover of this issue, in black, red and white, is dominated by the
memorial plaque presented to the next-of-kin of every member of His
Majesty’s forces who fell in the war. The name plate is significantly
left blank. Framing the plaque are the pillars and entablature decorated
with garlands reminiscent of several of the preceding commemorative
This issue, number 4257, vol. 157 (pages 801- 864), measures 30 x 42
cm and was priced at two shillings.
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