The Return of the Unknown Warrior

Wednesday, 10 November, 1920
The Guard of Honour for the Unknown Warrior at Dover's Western Docks .
A Guard of Honour provided by the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers lines the route of The Unknown Warrior's journey from HMS Verdun at Dover's Western Docks.

On the evening of 7 November 1920 Brigadier General L J Wyatt DSO, Director of Graves Registrations in France, entered a small chapel at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise near Arras. There the remains of four unidentified British soldiers, recovered from four different battlefields of the Great War, lay in simple coffins covered with Union flags. Wyatt did not know one from another and with his eyes closed, he placed his hand on one of the coffins. In this simple act Britain's Unknown Warrior was chosen.

The Unknown Warrior remained in the chapel at Saint-Pol overnight, before being escorted to the library of the medieval castle at Boulogne on the afternoon of 8 November. The library became a 'chapelle ardent' in which, under French custom, the bodies of sovereigns lay in state. The Guard of Honour was provided by a company of the French 8e Régiment d'infanterie. This regiment, whose Imperial Eagle had been taken by the 87th (Prince of Wales's Irish) Regiment at The Battle of Barrosa in 1811, had recently been awarded the Légion d'Honneur for distinguished service during the War.

On the morning of 9 November, The Unknown Warrior was placed in a casket made from the timbers of oak trees from Hampton Court Palace, banded with iron and surmounted with a Crusader's sword chosen from the Royal Collection by His Majesty King George V. Then, escorted by a division of French troops, The Unknown Warrior was carried through Boulogne to the quayside and piped aboard the British destroyer HMS Verdun.

HMS Verdun slipped anchor at mid-day and, escorted by six battleships, sailed overnight for Dover.

In the early morning of 10 November 1920, as the flotilla approached Dover, it was greeted with a 19-gun Field Marshal's salute from the ramparts of Dover Castle. The Unknown Warrior was landed at Dover's Western Docks and from there taken to the Marine Railway Station for the final leg of the journey to London. The Guard of Honour in Dover was provided by the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers, whose forebears had taken the 8e Régiment's Eagle at Barrosa.