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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Unknown Warrior

The Unknown Warrior was selected to rest in Westminster  Abbey, as a representative of the hundreds of thousands of  British troops who had died during the First World War. In late  1920 four groups of British soldiers were sent out to the four  biggest battlefields of the Western Front - Aisne, Arras,  Somme and Ypres - where crude wooden crosses marked the  graves of British soldiers.   Each group located a cross which showed that the identity of  the soldier buried there was unknown. The body was then  exhumed and taken to a temporary chapel at St Pol in  Northern France. The four sets of remains were guarded  overnight and the next day a high ranking British officer  (some reports say that he was blind-folded) entered the  chapel and touched one of the bodies, all of which were  covered with Union flags. The chosen body was placed in a plain coffin and taken to  Boulogne. With the coffin went sacks of soil dug from the spot  where the soldier had died, so that the earth of France that he was defending would cover his last resting place in  Westminster Abbey. On 10 November 1920 the body was  placed in a larger oak coffin and, amid great ceremony, taken  aboard HMS Verdun. The ship sailed from Boulogne to Dover  escorted by six destroyers. At Dover people lined the cliffs to see the Unknown Warrior  return home. At the Admiralty Pier representatives of the  nation were waiting and Dover’s civic leaders were among  those there to pay homage. With great ceremony the remains  were loaded onto the special train and taken to London. The  next day, 11 November 1920, the second anniversary of the  signing of the Armistice, the remains of the Unknown Warrior  were carried through the streets of London and laid to rest in  Westminster Abbey. By the end of the day 200,000 people had visited his  graveside. He represented more than 300,000 British and  Dominion soldiers with no known grave.  
The Unknown Warrior arrives in Dover. The coffin being removed from HMS Verdun by soldiers, a sailor and an airman. The Unknown Warrior arrives in Dover. The coffin being carried along the guayside at the Admiralty Pier.