A STORY TO TOUCH YOUR HEART STRINGS!

It is brief, rarely if ever pushed to the front of the queue but I believe of national interest.

When I set out to write naval stories not ordinarily told on naval web sites back in 1999, I was conscious that my littlesite would be sidelined by the glorious stories  coming to the fore from our our officer classes, but they didn't come to fruition. 

Here in a very brief snippet, to share with you. 

At the end of WW1 which officially ended in June 1919,  although the bullets stopped being fired [the hostilities]  on the 11th of the 11th 1918, there were piecemeal celebrations, as one would expect, in every town and city throughout the land and here are a few examples. This in front of Buckingham Palace: note the prominence of the white ensign.  Here's a couple more before I get to my point.

 

 

 

Happy girls in London.....note the American army jeep.

Winchester and a military band playing for a crowd engulfed in joyous overtones on hearing that the war was over.  There are many more but after the armistice there was no official celebrations save that we and our allies had won a decisive victory.

Despite those baying crowds in the picture above outside Buckingham Palace, the 1918 Armistice, official celebrations were done in a quiet [almost] dignified manner as my picture of the King and Queen below  below suggests. This is Their Majesty's King George V and Queen Mary with their daughter  May, arriving at St Paul's Cathedral on the 12th November 1918 for a national service to celebrate the armistice, the first official post WW1 remembrance event.

In the summer of 1919 there was a massive military parade of 15,000 troops and 1500 officers who marched down Whitehall to salute a makeshift monument temporarily rigged for the occasion.  All, including the King, had to wait a full two years before a permanent memorial was erected [in exactly the same place/position as the temporary rig had been which was unveiled at the start of the first remembrance day parade on the 11th of November 1920. The unveiling was stage managed to the point of high theatrics and brought forward floods of tears and a mountain high of goose pimples to all those watching. Arguably, it was the great high point of London pageantry down through centuries possibly exempting royal and state funerals and possibly royal weddings if that's your taste! Below I set the scene for you. Use your scroll bars to navigate through the picture below.

The unveiling demanded that His Majesty pressed a button on top of the mini obelisk in front of him at which the two massive union flags would fall onto the roadway below to reveal for the first time the Cenotaph for all to see.  Behind the King is a gun carriage on which rest the retrieved body of a British soldier killed in action. He became  our "Unknown Warrior" laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. In front of His Majesty to his right and behind the officer holding the King's wreath are the victorious  admirals and generals who persecuted the war.

I wonder whether the Unknown Soldier in the coffin on the gun carriage is telling the spirits of others  to cheer up pals, and we will all meet sometime soon in heaven to to start a better life ? The stone coffin on the top of the Cenotaph is empty, so too is the Cenotaph, the actual word  means an empty tomb. The body in the coffin is just one of the almost countless 'Brits recovered from shallow graves in French fields or in the poppy meadows of Flanders fields, and was chosen by a type of lottery to Rest In Eternal State Peace representing a lost generation of men to be entombed in Westminster Abbey.

However, I often wonder why they didn't repeat the Unknown Warrior  for WW2, this time  in St Paul's Cathedral.  What a fitting place to be in the same building as Nelson and Wellington?

So, the very first remembrance day as we know it today was the 11th of November 1920.