The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior Sealed

The Times, 19 November 1920:

Last night the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was sealed, and there was an end of the great pilgrimage of the public to see the coffin that has become a memorial to all the British dead. The pilgrimage started soon after the Burial Service finished on Armistice Day.

Altogether about a million people must have passed through the Abbey. The queue yesterday was again very large. For the greater part of the day people stood six abreast, and although they passed through the Abbey at a quicker rate than on preceding days the queue steadily grew longer. It was intended to close the doors at 3.45, but there was a quarter of an hour’s grace, and even then there were still many people unable to pass through.

At the very last moment a lady came to the Deanery bringing a maple leaf that had been sent from Canada by a soldier who had earned the Victoria Cross at Lucknow. She asked that this should be placed on the coffin before the grave was sealed up, and her wish was carried out.

The grave was filled with soil brought from the battlefields of France and Flanders.

Within half an hour the nave had been cleared of people. The Abbey was nearly in darkness, and the Unknown Warrior was at last alone. For three hours the coffin was not touched. An organ recital had been arranged, and it was decided not to close the grave until this had finished. For nearly two hours the organ pealed out, and the Warrior received a fitting last requiem.

The recital over, a beginning was made with the work of burial. The grave was filled with soil brought from the battlefields of France and Flanders. The inscription on the temporary slab has been printed in The Times. It will now be possible to get close enough to the grave to read it. The barriers have been narrowed, and the procession of mourners will in future pass directly by the grave. The Dean of Westminster hopes that it will be possible to reopen this part of the Abbey to the public today.

The queues at the Cenotaph were very little smaller yesterday than on preceding days. It is now a week since the memorial was unveiled, and in that time quite a million and a quarter people must have filed past it. During the afternoon a number of men on wheeled chairs, some of whom had lost both legs, laid wreaths. One of these was inscribed with the words, “Lest we forget”.

From The Times Archive, retrieved 19 November 2020.

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