The Unknown Soldier

Six black horses silently strode through London on the 11th of November, 1920. Thousands gazed at their gun, limbered, making its way through cobbled streets. In total silence, a casket wrapped in a union jack sat atop. No cheers or cries accompanied the bereaved, but today they are the guest of honor. In Westminster Abbey, George V, the royal family, and hundreds of veterans buried a cadaver in a tomb which reads to this day:
Beneath this stone rests the body
Of a British warrior
Unknown by name or rank
Brought from France to lie among
The most illustrious of the land
And buried here on Armistice Day
11 Nov: 1920
Four days earlier the bodies of four unknown soldiers were placed in a chapel, each coming from either Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres. Brigadier General Wyatt, alone, chose one of four covered caskets, each containing a serviceman entirely unknown in name, rank, regiment, or service. Buried at Westminster is nobody in particular, and therefore possibly everybody. The widows standing before the descending casket could find solace in the thought that their own husbands were in front of them, the children their father, the siblings their beloved brother.
The unknown soldier cannot be known, but is well-known. He lies in Westminster on behalf of all those whose burial is unknown. He lies at the heart of Rome as the Milite Ignoto, In France beneath the Arch De Triomphe.
In Malta, 50 years after it received the George Cross, a monument was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II. A large belfry, sitting behind the unknown soldier. Although his face is uncovered, his body laid bare, he is about to be tipped into the water below, into the unknown. This unknown soldier is about to be buried at sea for all bereaved during the second world war.
In Malta, today, this notion lies at the very core of living history. Every reenactor portrays not one soldier, but all. Every reenactor is meant to portray not just the unknown soldier, but the known and unknown in their entirety. We do not wear the uniform, but a uniform; it stands on behalf of all during the siege of Malta and more. The unknown remain known in every re-enactor; they are a metaphor for the entire war, their body a resting place for thousands of unknown memories.

One thought on “The Unknown Soldier

  1. This very much interesting video helps us to appreciate, understand & respect the soldiers who fought & gave their lives to make the world a better place.

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