BBC World Service: The Unknown Soldier

Posted on: Mon 7 Dec 2020

Special permission was granted for Service Voices to broadcast this beautifully crafted BBC episode. Moira Stuart tells the astonishing story of the idea of the Unknown Soldier: a powerful prism for national grief, a brilliant interplay between anonymity and universal recognition, an icon which spread across the globe.   On the second anniversary of the armistice following the end of the Great War, the remains of a single Unknown Soldier were brought home from the battlefields of the Western Front. Given the scale of the carnage and the fact that so many of the fallen were simply unidentifiable, the idea to commemorate the dead through the remains of one anonymous soldier – that would represent them all – was more than just pragmatic. As an idea it had a symbolic, almost poetic, resonance.

In this moving feature marking the centenary of Armistice Day, Moira asks whether the Unknown Soldier is finally an icon of war or peace; of sorrow and mourning – or is he a warning to us still?

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