In the stillness before the battle
HYMN BEFORE ACTION by Rudyard Kipling
THE earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Go up against our path:
Ere yet we loose the legions
Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, aid!
High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek Thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee
Lord, grant us strength to die!
For those who kneel beside us
At altars not Thine own,
Who lack the lights that guide us,
Lord, let their faith atone.
If wrong we did to call them,
By honour bound they came;
Let not Thy Wrath befall them,
But deal to us the blame.
From panic, pride, and terror,
Revenge that knows no rein,
Light haste and lawless error,
Protect us yet again.
Cloak Thou our undeserving,
Make firm the shuddering breath,
In silence and unswerving
To taste Thy lesser death!
Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes to-morrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need
True comrade and true foeman
E'en now their vanguard gathers,
E'en now we face the fray ‹
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Help Thou our host to-day!
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death made clear ‹
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, hear!
The Unknown Warrior
The captains and the kings depart.
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.
This morning the focus of the United Kingdom and her Commonwealth will be on the Cenotaph and the Tomb Of The Unknown Warrior as we pay homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the nation.
Cenotaph means ³open tomb² and was built as part of the victory celebrations to mark the official ending of the First World War - along the route of the victory parade it was though fitting that the participants have a focal point to remember the 105,210 members of the British and Empire forces who had no known grave.
The eminent architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was given two weeks to design a non-denominational shrine, made out of wood and plaster.
It was the Cenotaph which most captured the public imagination during the victory celebrations on 19 July, and after the parade many of the bereaved laid wreaths there. It was evident that a more permanent monument was required, and Lutyens was commissioned to design a stone Cenotaph for the same site, which would be unveiled by the King on Armistice Day 1920.
THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR
³I came back from the line at dusk. We had just laid to rest the mortal remains of a comrade. I went to a billet in front of Erkingham, near Armentieres. At the back of the billet was a small garden, and in the garden only six paces from the house, there was a grave. At the head of the grave there stood a rough cross of white wood. On the cross was written in deep black-pencilled letters, "An Unknown British Soldier" and in brackets beneath, "of the Black Watch". It was dusk and no one was near, except some officers in the billet playing cards. I remember how still it was. Even the guns seemed to be resting.
³How that grave caused me to think. Later on I nearly wrote to Sir Douglas Haig to ask if the body of an "unknown" comrade might be sent home...²
In 1920 he wrote to the Dean of Westminster and the idea was adopted.
THE FINAL JOURNEY
On the night of 7 November one body, identifiable only as a British soldier, was exhumed from each of the four main battle areas, the Aisne, the Somme, Ypres and Arras, and brought to the chapel at St. Pol
Each body was covered with a Union Jack and placed on a stretcher. Brigadier-General Wyatt, not blindfolded as some stories suggest, entered the chapel and chose one of the bodies at random. The other three were then reburied.
The following day the body was taken to Boulogne under escort where it was placed in a coffin made of English oak, and a crusader-style sword presented by the King was fixed to the coffin. On 9th November a French military escort went with the body to Boulogne, where Marshal Foch paid his own homage. British troops then took over guard duties and the body crossed the Channel in the destroyer Verdun, receiving a Field Marshal's nineteen gun salute on arrival at Dover. Crowds gathered at every station on the way as the Unknown Warrior's train travelled north from the Kent coat to London's Victoria station.
³The train thundered through the dark, wet, moonless night. At the platforms by which it rushed could be seen groups of women watching and silent, many dressed in deep mourning. Many an upper window was open and against the golden square of light was silhouetted clear cut and black the head and shoulders of some faithful watcher ³In the London suburbs there were scores of homes with back doors flung wide, light flooding out and in the garden figures of men women and children gazing at the great lighted train rushing past.² from the Daily Mail 11 November 1920
THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS
At eleven o'clock - "the eleventh hour" - as Big Ben began to chime, the King turned to face the Cenotaph and, by a touch on a button, released the flags veiling the monument. As the chimes died away, everyone fell silent for two minutes, and the Last Post sounded.
The solemn journey continued down Whitehall to Westminster Abbey where the nave was lined by 100 soldiers who had been awarded the Victoria Cross. The Royal Family had pride of place, but the congregation was primarily composed of widows and mothers who had lost sons. There was no foreign representation. The service was brief and according to The Times , 'the most beautiful, the most touching and the most impressive this island has ever seen.'
After the hymn ³Lead kindly light², the King stepped forward and dropped a handful of French earth onto the coffin as it was lowered into the grave. At the close of the service, after the hymn ³Abide with me² and prayers, the congregation sang Rudyard Kipling¹s solemn Recessional ³God of Our Fathers, Known of OldŠ² after which the Reveille and Last Post were sounded by trumpeters.
It had been planned that the grave of the Unknown Warrior would be closed after allowing a pilgrimage of three days. The organisers were taken completely by surprise by the response of the people, not only in London, but throughout Great Britain. Once the ceremony was finished the thousands of people who had lined the streets began to queue to pass the Cenotaph. Most of them had brought wreaths or bunches of flowers to place at the base of the memorial.
At least 40,000 people passed through the Abbey before the doors were closed at 11pm an hour later than the scheduled closure time and thousands more passed the Cenotaph. There were still long queues at midnight, and people continued to visit the site through the night.
³Most impressive of all was the night scene in Whitehall. The vast sweep of the road was almost silent save for the ceaseless murmur of footsteps. Under the brilliant glare of the lamps that were softened by the foggy air the long, dark lines of people stretched from Trafalgar Square to the Cenotaph from whose base they could be seen vanishing in the distance, two narrow lines of slowly moving people separated by a wide pathway on which stood here and there vague figures of policemen on horseback.² from the Daily Mail 12 November 1920
The pilgrimage went on throughout the weekend, with Saturday bringing large numbers of pilgrims from outside London. The Daily Express told the story of two wounded soldiers who walked sixty miles to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph; they had both lost brothers in the war. There were pilgrims from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
³One policeman spoke of old women who had come from remote country villages to pay homage to the dead. "One old lady came from the far north of Scotland. She carried a bunch of withered flowers, and told me with tears in her eyes that the flowers came from a little garden which her boy had planted when he was only six." Daily Telegraph 12 November 1920
On Monday 15 November traffic began to move along Whitehall, but the great pilgrimage carried on. As buses passed the Cenotaph, the drivers slowed out of respect, and their passengers stood and removed their hats. Up to the time the grave was closed on 18th November an estimated 1,250,000 people visited the Abbey, but the pilgrimage continued long afterwards, with the space enclosing the grave remaining filled with flowers and other tributes for almost a year.
The Unknown Warrior lies today at the centre of the nation, he is covered by a simple black marble slab with an inscription picked out in brass - from melted down cartridge cases reclaimed from the British lines in France. Beside him hangs a battered old Union flag which had covered a makeshift Communion table at the front in France for the 141st Brigade of the 47th (London) Division and also the ship¹s bell from HMS Verdun. Beside him in a small cabinet hangs the Congressional Medal of Honour - this was conferred upon the Warrior by General Pershing, the only time this decoration has been given to someone who was not an American citizen.
The inscription reads -
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, IN THE PRESENCE OF
HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V
HIS MINISTERS OF STATE
THE CHIEFS OF HIS FORCES
AND A VAST CONCOURSE OF THE NATION
THUS ARE COMMEMORATED THE MANY
MULTITUDES WHO DURING THE GREAT
WAR OF 1914-1918 GAVE THE MOST THAT
MAN CAN GIVE LIFE ITSELF
FOR KING AND COUNTRY
FOR LOVED ONES HOME AND EMPIRE
FOR THE SACRED CAUSE OF JUSTICE AND
THE FREEDOM OF THE WORLD
THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS BECAUSE HE
HAD DONE GOOD TOWARD GOD AND TOWARD HIS HOUSE
Tommy by Rudyard Kipling
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play, O it's
"Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls! For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside"; But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide, The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide, O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap; An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit. Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?" But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll, The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll, O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you; An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints, Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints; While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind", But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind, There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind, O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all: We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational. Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace. For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!" But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot; An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please; An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!