The Great War did not officially end until June 1919 with the final signing of the Treaty of Versailles. As part of the plan to mark the war's end with a victory parade, Lloyd George proposed a controversial scheme to place 'a catafalque' somewhere along the route, where the marching troops could salute the dead.
Sir Edwin Lutyens was given two weeks to design a non-denominational shrine, made out of wood and plaster. It was Lutyens who suggested this structure be named the Cenotaph: the empty tomb.
The Cenotaph, London, England
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.
As plans were being drawn up for a simple unveiling ceremony on November 11th 1920, there was a proposal that the body of an unknown soldier be returned to England for burial at the same time. It is generally agreed that the original idea came from the vicar of Margate, the Reverend David Railton MC (pictured right), who had served as a padre in France in 1916. Years later he wrote:
I 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.
How 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...