The Railway Van which carried the body of Cavell

Discussion in 'General' started by CommanderChuff, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    The Cavell Van

    Preserving a unique part of railway history

    [​IMG]You can donate to the Appeal online here

    We need to raise £35,000 to restore the van in time for the National Service of Remembrance on 11 November 2010

    The BBC South-East News featured the Appeal Launch on Thursday 3rd December - watch it here
    See the new gallery of images taken by Lewis J Brockway on the Appeal Launch day, 03.12.09
    You can download the Cavell Van Appeal Leaflet and Donation Form here
    The ‘Cavell Van’, built in 1919, is important in the railway preservation movement for being the prototype of a class of vans used for mail and luggage on express passenger trains from the 1920s. Read more...
    But it has a far wider and deeper significance historically, for the uses to which it was put following the end of the First World War - from which it acquired its name of ‘Cavell Van’ - conveying the bodies of three heroes from Dover to London.
    The Kent & East Sussex Railway has acquired this extremely valuable historic vehicle and it is our intention to restore it mechanically and then fit out the interior to represent the journeys made to London with the bodies of these three British heroes.
    There will be a catafalque with coffin draped with the Union Flag in the centre and on the walls of the van will be educational panels and photographic displays to commemorate its extraordinary history. The vehicle will be available for school educational visits, special events and for Armistice services as well as being on display to our general visitors.
    Restoration will cost in the region of £35,000 and donations are sought towards these expenses. Our ambition is to complete restoration by 10 November 2010, the 90th anniversary of the Van’s use to carry the Unknown Warrior.
    [​IMG]Nurse Edith Cavell

    The London Hospital-trained nurse, Edith Cavell, was appointed Matron of a hospital in Belgium in 1910. When the Germans invaded in 1914, she remained at her post, treating both British and German soldiers wounded during fighting on the Western Front.
    In 1915 she joined the ‘resistance’ and helped injured British soldiers escape back to the British lines. Caught and condemned by the Germans, Nurse Edith Cavell was executed by firing squad on 12 October 1915. Nurse Cavell was acclaimed by British and French public opinion as a heroine and after the war, her body was returned to Britain. On 15 May 1919, her coffin arrived at Dover and was placed in the ‘Cavell Van’ to be carried to London. The van had been fitted out in full ceremonial style with a catafalque and hung with drapes.
    Thereafter, it and all others of the class were always known as ‘Cavell Vans’ by railwaymen.
    [​IMG]Captain Charles Fryatt

    The next ceremonial use was for the return of the body of Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt. Captain Fryatt was the Master of a Great Eastern Railway passenger and freight steamer, on the dangerous route between Harwich and The Hook, in neutral Holland.
    In March 1915 his bravery was apparent when he successfully rammed a U-boat with his vessel rather than surrender. For this, he received a gold watch from the British Admiralty. The German Navy now actively pursued him and successfully deployed a flotilla of torpedo boats to intercept him in June 1916.
    It was the “show trial” which followed which resulted in his being acclaimed a hero in Britain. Rather than being taken a prisoner of war, the Germans, determined to make an example of him, executed him in July 1916.
    The Cavell van, now decorated with a plaque to Edith Cavell, was chosen to convey his body, with full military honours, from Dover to London on 15 July 1919.
    The Unknown Warrior

    Most famous of all perhaps, was the return of the ‘Unknown Warrior’, an unidentified body selected at random to represent the countless thousands who had no marked grave in the mud of the trenches.
    The Unknown Warrior’s body arrived in Dover on HMS Verdun on 10 November 1920 and was placed in the ‘Cavell Van’, this time being decorated with laurel leaves, palms and lilies.
    The coffin of the Unknown Warrior was then conveyed to London for a burial service attended by King George V at the inauguration of the Cenotaph on 11 November 1920.
    [​IMG]Patron of the Cavell Van Appeal

    Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE DL
    Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports
    Constable of Dover Castle
    The Western Front Association

    As the UK’s leading educational charity on the First World War the Western Front Association (WFA) is delighted to be associated with the K&ESR Cavell van project. [​IMG]Founded in 1980 with a focus on the Western Front the WFA has developed to cover all aspects of the 1914-1918 war. Branch activities nationwide include lectures, battlefield tours, museum visits, school competitions and research support for projects including family history. The WFA website contains Great War articles, a discussion forum and a schools’ section. WFA members also receive magazines exploring life during the conflict. For an application form, visit The Western Front Association: dedicated to the study of The Great War 1914-18. explore | learn | share

    [​IMG]We need to raise £35,000 to restore the van in time for the National Service of Remembrance on 11 November 2010
  2. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    Update on the Cavell Van:

    Members will be interested to learn that the Kent and East Sussex Railway has secured sufficient funding to start the restoration of this historically important railway van. The railway is entirely staffed by volunteers and projects are mainly funded by donations or revenue from operating steam train services. The 1940's events are particularly interesting for the variety of military uniforms and equipment. Donations for the van restoration can be made at the railways website, or if preferred, members can support the railway by attending one of the many events.

    The Kent and East Sussex Railway

    This link will take you to a very interesting description of the van and the three events which has made it a historic vehicle worthy of interest.

    The project is seeking further information on the van and would welcome any offers of information, particularly, special operating notices from the SECR and Southern railway.

    Thanks for your interest.
  3. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    This article appeared in Steam Railway magazine October 2010.

    Tenterden (town in East Sussex) sixth formers have raised the profile of the Kent and East Sussex Railways project to restore its Cavell van by winning a Channel 4 contest.

    Tarn Hall, Jack Tate, Samantha Foreman and Charlotte Earl-Sayers beat teams from thousands of other schools with their digital project on the history of the 1919 SECR luggage van which will be on display when its £34,000 restoration is completed in November.

    The vans significance originates from its role in conveying, from Dover to London, the remains of the three war heroes repatriated from Europe - the bodies of the murdered Nurse Edith Cavell, war hero seamna Captain Charles Fryatt and much later, the Unknown Warrior.
  4. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    Passing the Parcel.

    The Story of an 'Umble Van. David Austin; February 2011; v9;

    It is unfortunate, but true, that the conflict of man has been responsible for so many great advancements in technology. Change in social structure has been equally profound. We can still trace the thread of railway development to key moments in conflicts over the years. The war to end all wars, the Great War of 1914 -1918, has been described as the first industrial conflict. The undeniable consequence is that, as a truly global conflict, the war touched more people than had any previously. For many people at home there was the novel experience of having to deal with a war which was being fought on foreign fields. The reality of the fighting was brought closer to home in vivid descriptions in the new media of newspapers and radio. As the troops fought and fell for victory in those far off countries their families were mourning at home. The end of the war may have brought a measure of relief for everybody but the defining moment of victory, that exquisite realisation of release from the horrors of war, was the widespread public display of grief. The massed scenes of solidarity for the dead were unprecedented but were to set a trend for later events. On the occasion of the 2010 Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in London that open solidarity is still alive and strong. The people choose to remember the years of war by honouring the fallen in the symbolism of the Unknown Warrior. In a small but poignant service in Kent the railway van which had carried his body to London was being proudly displayed. Gleaming bright after its recent restoration the van had been saved for the nation by a far sighted and conscientious individual many years ago. A long period of storage followed and it had lain neglected at the Kent and East Sussex Railway in Kent. The railway launched an appeal for the restoration of this utilitarian but iconic vehicle early in the year. With an award from Lottery Funding the railway was able to roll out a beautifully restored vehicle in time for the 90th anniversary of the last journey of the Unknown Warrior.

    The vehicle is a Passenger Luggage Van (PLV), designed and built in 1919 by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR). This particular example was used on three separate occasions to convey the bodies of Edith Cavell, Charles Fryatt and the Unknown Warrior to London. In between these monumental assignments the van carried the luggage of day trippers to the seaside and vacationers to the big steam ships for their transatlantic adventures. But the circumstances of why the van was developed and reasons why it became successful are probably less well understood.

    The railways in Britain were developed and extended as the demands of the marketplace dictated. Unfettered by government interference the railway network spread across the country in a fairly haphazard manner creating a web of railway lines across the country. And, unlike many other railway developing countries, the government restricted its controlling hand to just two main criteria by which any new application for a railway was assessed: the impact on the existing infrastructure with a good fit for future strategic needs, and the value that the proposal offers to the public. As the market for mass travel developed the railways were always considered by Parliament to be a public service and as such were obliged to be common carriers. This meant that the railways could not refuse to carry anything which a customer was prepared to pay. Indeed this was the fundamental principle of the process of the Act of Incorporation where the railway built the physical infrastructure of lines and stations for the use of private individuals to convey goods. The movement of people by train came later. In reality the only people who could use the fledgling railways were the very wealthy.

    The economy expanded at a pace in the late 1800's as increasing personal wealth fuelled a desire to trade with the world. The British Empire was actually created by the demands of a new elite, the house owner, to furnish their homes. In pre-electronic days the administration of the far reaches of this global trading empire was achieved by communicating by snail mail. The delivery of the ‘mails’ became more important particularly as the opening years of the 20th Century witnessed the start of the disintegration of the Empire. The early warning signs were presaged by the rooting of the Indian Rebellion in 1857. At this critical time the Empire needed more than ever a reliable postal service to manage the affairs of the colonies and the supply of exotic goods. Accordingly, the government encouraged the railways to bridge any gaps in the strategic railway network to keep the delivery of the post interference free. But the commercially minded railways treated the mails and parcels service much like the common-or-garden humble goods. And so the letters of intrigue and parcels of mystery meandered to the post boxes of their intended recipients at the same leisurely pace as a box of rivets or a bundle of cloth. This state of affairs was hampering the efficient running of the 'empire with no bounds', and of course, time was becoming money. From a practical point of view the vehicles in the passenger trains had to be designed to a far higher specification than ordinary goods, and as a result were much more expensive. However, the load of anonymous packages in uniform brown paper would only ever need a dry shelf. So whilst the people travelled in relative comfort and safety in fast heated carriages the all important mails and parcels kept company with the ironmongery in slow ordinary goods wagons.

    This was about to change in the late 1800's. Although the railways had been authorised to carry bulk mail the single letter post was the sole preserve of the post office. But some enterprising railway companies were already offering a letter postal service to their customers. And since 1848 some of the train guards on the London and Brighton railway had been posting single letters when they arrived at the nominated station.

    But the real stumbling block to keeping the parcels moving across the country was that railways companies would charge different rates for an item. The owner of a simple parcel had to embark on a major logistical effort to send the goods across the country with each railway boundary being a transfer hurdle in administration and costly inefficiency. The breakthrough came in an important bit of legislation when the government enacted in 1891 the Railway Rates and Charges Act. This and subsequent acts up to 1898 set a standard nationwide tariff for separate classes of merchandise for all railways. There were six different classes and specific goods were deliberately rated more highly for carriage by passenger train. This reflected the increased cost of carriage by fast train but also underlined the strategic importance of certain goods to the country. The rates in order of value were:
    1. goods and minerals,
    2. animals,
    3. carriages,
    4. exceptional items - such as wild beasts,
    5. perishables - by passenger train,
    6. small parcels.

    The parcels, which included the mails, suddenly became high value goods and the need for a more suitable railway vehicle to convey them was now a necessity. At the same time the Railway Letter Post was introduced to supplement the limitations of the average horse powered postman and in recognition of need for the speedy transport of urgent mail. As the beginning of the new century ended in the madness of the Great War there was a new demand for parcel traffic. The families of millions of troops were helpless at home and remote from their loved ones on the battlefields of the near Continent. By the early 1900's the ubiquitous parcel from home had become a great comfort for the troops. Throughout the war a regular military mail train had left Victoria or Charing Cross with up to 30 closed goods vans. During periods of heavy traffic this service was sometimes split into two separate trains. As the military parcels were being sent out from the south east corner of England the crucial Indian Mails were arriving into London. The increase in this traffic gave the 'home' railway, the SE&CR, good reason for designing a general purpose goods vehicle for use in passenger trains. This had to be capable of running at high speed in fast trains but also had to be built cheaply. The other railways were already using passenger style coaches for parcels but the high cost of construction and servicing limited their use. The SE&CR design married the body of a goods van to a strengthened vehicle chassis with passenger rated wheels. The light steel framework was boarded with wooden planks on the inside and four large windows on each side provided natural light. The luggage was loaded through double opening doors in the centre of each side. Its body length of 32ft could carry a very useful load of 12 tons and the long wheelbase of 21ft provided the stability necessary for fast running with passenger stock. The van was fitted with continuous brakes and, unlike any other any other 4 wheeled vehicle, was permitted to be marshalled in trains of bogie carriages. The benefit of low construction cost and the multi-use capability made this type a firm favourite with the operations department. The original design became the basis of the genre of multiple purpose vans well into the era of BR in the early 1950's. Nearly one thousand vehicles were built to the original SE&CR design and were to be used for a wide variety of tasks such as luggage, parcels, newspapers, small parcels, bicycles and general merchandise. Several of these vehicles were allocated to the Victoria - Folkestone service and typically the London end of a SE&CR Continental Boat Train would have two vans for passenger luggage. In 1926 the basic design was modified by Mr Maunsell to add end doors for loading large or wheeled cargoes. The type eventually evolved into two distinct vans, the Parcels and Miscellaneous Van, (PMV), and the Covered Car Van, (Covcar). The standard colour scheme was sage green, black ends and white roof until 1939. According to David Gould at least two vans were painted grey presumably coinciding with a shortage of green paint. In the post war period the vans become malachite green, and were painted in the familiar crimson red by BR. By the 1970’s the sight of long van trains were a common feature and six trains of up to 10 vans were leaving Ramsgate every day loaded with parcels for all regions in the UK. The parcels service was finally closed in 1981 and the vans withdrawn in 1986.

    Van 132:
    The SE&CR unveiled the prototype of the original van in early May 1919 and used the same vehicle, number 132, to carry the body of Nurse Edith Cavell from Dover to London on 15th May 1919. It carried its original fleet number until it became number 1972 in the lists of the SR in November 1925. In operational service it was allocated to the Victoria – Folkestone service and ran with a twin partner van on the Boat Trains. The van was downgraded to departmental service in the late 1950's to be re-numbered DS374 and was used as a stores van between the workshops of Lancing and Brighton. Another downgrade to internal user in 1967 saw the van keeping the staff at the Guildford Cable Depot warm and their tools safe. In 1992 the van was sold into private ownership and was kept at the Kent and East Sussex Railway for many years having been restored to an unusually high standard by BR. The van was handed over dressed in the original SE&CR livery of umber brown and yellow lettering. There followed a period of nomadic wanderings until the van was returned to the Kent and East Sussex Railway (K&ESR) in 2004. This type of vehicle was known as the Cavell Van by the railwaymen in memory of the first time it was used in the funeral cortege of the burial of a national figure.

    Nurse Edith Cavell:
    The cause of Nurse Cavell was a symbol of national unification at the time that the Great War was becoming better known as the bloodiest conflict in the history of warfare. The tragedy of her death was that but for circumstance and a little more care she and others could have avoided the firing squad. Edith was working at a private medical clinic in Brussels when Belgium was invaded by German forces on the 3rd of August 1914. The clinic was a training school for nurses which had been established by a local doctor using the teachings of Florence Nightingale as a model. When Brussels fell soon afterwards the Germans eventually commandeered all of the hospitals for treating their own wounded. In the clinic Edith and two nurses were kept on to help the new occupants under the protection of the Red Cross. The country may have fallen but some of the Belgians wanted to help the Allies. Several groups of sympathetic mothers and families had formed escape routes for the French, Belgian and British troops who had been left behind in the fighting. At the outset of this venture the clinic was used as a first aid station to treat the wounded soldiers but then it became a clearing house for uninjured escapers. The rules of the German occupation promised severe penalties for anybody who harboured enemy troops. The escape lifeline managed to last for a year with Cavell eventually helping over 200 soldiers to return to their countries. The end came quickly as the German military command in Brussels hardened their stance to rule-breaking and the resistance group helping the escapers started to make basic errors. The Cavell team were nurses and not trained in the ways of covert operations or deception. It was evitable that most of the escape group and Cavell were to be arrested and imprisoned. The German military rushed through a 'court martial' of Cavell and kept the proceedings secret from all observers. The majority of the German staff, as well as the British and Belgium diplomats, could not believe that an execution would actually take place. The trial and state sanctioned killing of a woman, even in war, was unprecedented. Despite the protests of several governments, and even with warnings of repeating the atrocity of Louvain, the order was carried out. The execution of Edith Cavell and several of the escape group took place at 7am on 12 October 1915 in Brussels. The execution was used as propaganda by the Belgians and the British who acclaimed Nurse Cavell as a martyr. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was moved to write: 'Everybody must feel disgusted at the barbarous actions of the German soldiery in murdering this great and glorious specimen of womanhood'. At the conclusion of the war her remains were escorted with great ceremony to Dover on 15th May 1919. From Dover to London the cortege witnessed an unexpected display of public grief as thousands of people lined the route to see the body being carried in SE&CR PLV number 132. The van had been fitted out in full ceremonial style with a catafalque over the coffin hung with drapes. Despite her humble life Edith Cavell become symbol of British female heroism in the face of barbarism and her name was internationally celebrated in memorials and gardens, on monuments, in films and perpetuated in newborn children. Mount Edith Cavell in the Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada is a tribute, Anna Neagle made a film, Joan Plowright appeared in a play simply entitled 'Cavell', and Edith Piaf carries her name. On the anniversary of her death her life is commemorate at the memorials at Norwich Cathedral and Trafalgar Square. The latter, by Sir George Frampton, is a grand statement of her best known quotes. In 1916 a famous spy network called ‘La Dame Blanche', the White Lady, was created in occupied Liege and funded by the British War Office. The network had up to a thousand participants and provided important information about movement and strength of the occupying German forces. The heroics were repeated in the Second World War as another nurse, Marie Madeline Bihet, was taking in evaders in her clinic as a part of the Comete escape route. Once again trained nurses managed the line and succeeded in saving the lives of at least 800 men. In remarkable coincidence eleven men of the escape group were executed on 20th October 1943 at the same place where Cavell had been shot exactly forty-four years earlier. In a testimony to the bravery of the local population at least 60% of the Comete helpers were killed for their cause to free their country.

    Captain Charles Fryatt:
    In July of 1919 the van was used again for the funeral cortege of another national hero. The story of Charles Fryatt is probably less well known than Cavell. At the start of the Great War in 1914 the Great Eastern Railway (GER) railway steamships were plying the Harwich - Holland route and Captain Charles Fryatt was in command of one of the ships. The ferries were designed for getting the mails and perishable foodstuffs across the Channel quickly. At 285 feet long and 1,380 tons the ships had two 3 cylinder triple expansion engines to endow them with a remarkably high speed of 16½ knots. This capability allowed them to outrun the new menace of the seas, the German submarine, or U-boat. The primitive battery powered underwater boats were still a fledgling technology and so the fleet railway steamers had a natural speed advantage. Although the German occupation of Belgium was complete it was still possible to continue trading with neutral Holland. The pre-war rules of engagement for warfare at sea were that civilian vessels had to be hailed and stopped. This situation took a dramatic turn in February 1915 when Germany declared a War Zone around the British Isles giving the submarines carte blanche to attack and sink any British merchant vessel without prior warning. This was in contravention of international maritime law which required warships to allow civilians to abandon passenger ships before attacking. Another complication was that although the railway ships belonged to the British Merchant Navy the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, had issued orders for the captains to act Nelson-like in the face of the enemy and had turned unarmed civilian vessels into potential warships. Early in March 1915, with 143 voyages safely logged, Fryatt was in charge of the SS Brussels when he was approached by a German submarine and only escaped to safety by having all hands stoke the ships boilers to bursting point. On the 28th March 1915 another submarine came into sight ahead of the Brussels as she headed into Rotterdam. The U-33 ordered the ship to heave-to but in an unusual display of unarmed opposition Captain Fryatt steered at full speed towards the submarine, firing off distress rockets to make the enemy believe that he had a gun. The U-boat submerged to avoid a collision and the Brussels was soon speeding away from danger. There were several other ships cited for reward for similar ‘meritorious services’ and their crews returned home to a hero's reception. The feats were used in propaganda to encourage the country and the Merchant Marine to resist the undersea menace. On that same day the first civilian passenger ship to be sunk in WWI, the RMS Falaba, was torpedoed with much loss of life in the ‘Thrasher’ incident, almost bringing the United States into the war. The sinking of the RMS Lusitania a few months later in May with heavy loss of life, and the SS Arabic in August, ultimately helped to complete the rejection of Germany’s policy of unrestricted sea warfare. Many neutral countries, including the USA, declared war in 1917. Nurse Cavell was deeply affected by the loss of the wife of the Belgian doctor who had employed her in Brussels.

    During the night of 22nd June 1916 the SS Brussels steamed out of Dutch waters with a cargo of refugees and food, and probably a German spy, on board. The ship was trapped by a flotilla of German destroyers and the crew were captured and taken into Zeebrugge. Captain Fryatt was tried by a German Court on July 27th 1916 for his 'war-like' acts and convicted of being a 'franc tireur' by acting against armed German sea forces in a 'perverse action'. In a 'show trial' the Germans were determined to make an example and executed Fryatt in July 1916. Denounced by the Government and several international communities the execution has been described as 'sheer, brutal murder' and the 'crowning German atrocity'. A small memorial was mounted in London’s Liverpool Street Station inscribed 'To the Memory of Capt. Chas. Fryatt, July 27th 1916. From the neutral admirers of his brave conduct and heroic death. The Netherlands' Section of the League of Neutral States, July 27th, 1917’. After the war had concluded its sad end in November of 1918 the British government was prompted by several maritime organisations to reinter Fryatt’s body as a tribute to him and the many thousand’s of British seamen who were lost in the war. HMS Orpheus sailed with his coffin to Dover on 7th of July, 1919. With a fine sense of occasion the SE&CR again used the Cavell van for another state funeral, now decorated with a plaque to Edith Cavell, to carry his coffin to London on 15th July 1919. The coffin was drawn on a gun carriage, escorted by sea Captains, to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a national memorial service which the Hampshire Advertiser reported as “the first time that London saw, in a state ceremonial, officers and men of that great service, the merchant marine”. The full recognition shown to Captain Fryatt was shown by the presence of many Cabinet Ministers, the War Office, and the Admiralty. The New York Times noted that ‘attendance marked the funeral as a solemn national protest against piratical methods of sea warfare’. The body was borne by special train for burial at Dovercourt with full military honours and he was laid to rest in sight of the sea. His ship, the Brussels, was finally broken up in May of 1929. The many memorials and tributes to Captain Fryatt includes a public house named for him in Parkeston, Essex, a wing at Dovercourt Cottage Hospital, now known as the Captain Fryatt Memorial Hospital, and in Canada Mount Fryatt was named in 1921 in his honour and the Brussels Peak for his ship.

    The Unknown Warrior.
    The First World War was widely described as the Great War and this affords the conflict with a suitable epitaph for the many dead. The Unknown Warrior became the symbol of suffering for almost every living person. On the 11th of November 1920 the remains of an unidentified British soldier who was killed on a battlefield in France was buried in Westminster Abbey. At the same time a similar ceremony was being carried out at the Arc de Triomphe in France for his counterpart. The sheer hugeness of scale in 'war to end all wars' had been enacted out on foreign fields. The connection of the living was lost with the dead in the muddy fields of France. And this lack of closure was an emotional block for many mothers and siblings. This was keenly felt by a Church of England clergyman who in 1916 was serving at the Western Front. The Reverend David Railton caught sight of an inscription on a rough wooden cross marking an anonymous war grave. The words "An Unknown British Soldier" was inscribed in pencil on that simple memorial. A proposal for a national grave and memorial been around for some time and only became reality with the support of King George V. In the face of fairly strong scepticism and uncertainty the project was given a reluctant approval. The unknown warrior was chosen from four dead soldiers taken from the battlefields at Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres. The four graves, chosen from the forest of crosses that now covered the French landscape, had blank markers as it was important to preserve the anonymity of the soldier. On the stroke of midnight on the 7th of November, 1920, Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt, the General Officer Commanding British Troops in France and Flanders, entered a hut near the village of St Pol, near Ypres in northern France. In a solemn ceremony he viewed the four coffins draped in Union flags and selected one at random. On the morning of 10 November the coffin was taken to Boulogne along with six barrels of earth from the French battlefields. The cortège, said to be a mile long, passed through the streets of the town to the strains of Chopin's Funeral March. The coffin, the earth and four huge wreaths were carried aboard the Royal Naval destroyer HMS Verdun. Each wreath was so large that it had to be handled by four men. The Verdun was met in mid-Channel by another six destroyers and upon her approach the escorting ships lowered their Union Jacks and white ensigns to half-mast. In the mid-afternoon the flotilla of ships approached Dover quayside and the Unknown Warrior was acknowledged with a 19-gun salute and a band playing Land of Hope and Glory. The shops and schools had been closed for the day and the streets were crammed with people. This level of honour was usually reserved for the state funeral of a monarch.

    The SE&CR turned out the Cavell van once again for probably the most famous of its historic assignments. The walls of the luggage van had been draped in purple cloth and the roof had been painted white so that people could see it more easily. The coffin was loaded at Dover Maritime Railway Station in the Western Docks. The four enormous wreaths were loaded with some difficulty into another luggage van. The train passed thousands of mourners on the slow journey to London in the afternoon of the 10th November 1920. The van was berthed in Victoria station on platform 8 and was guarded throughout the night by members of the four military services. There is a plaque at the station to mark the occasion and remembrance services are held there every year.
    The war had ended at 11 o'clock on the 11th of November, 1918. On the second anniversary in 1920, to the minute, the coffin of the Unknown Warrior was drawn on a gun carriage in a procession from Victoria, to Buckingham Palace, and then to the newly completed national war memorial on Whitehall. The Cenotaph, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was unveiled by King George V. At 11:00 there was a two-minute silence and then the coffin was carried into Westminster Abbey on the shoulders of the most senior commanders of the military services and high ranking Cabinet ministers. A guard of honour was provided by one hundred holders of the Victoria Cross. In the congregation were one hundred widows and mothers who had lost men in the war. The soldier was probably a regular army soldier of the original 'contemptible' British expeditionary force although there were also Territorial Army units on the Western Front from September 1914. But for all of the families in mourning the Unknown Warrior could have been their man and so the collective grief of the nation was centred on this one symbolic soldier. The Times reported that the service was 'the most beautiful, the most touching and the most impressive that this island has ever seen'. The final resting place is in the Western entrance to the abbey and the grave was filled with the earth from the main battlefields in France. The black marble capping stone was quarried in Belgium and it is the only grave in the Abbey which cannot be trodden upon, even by the Monarch. It was estimated that over 200,000 people visited the grave to pay their respects in the first day and over one million in the opening week. The Cenotaph was all but buried beneath a mountain of 100,000 wreaths. The gun carriage is now on display at Firepower, the Museum of Royal Artillery, in Woolwich Arsenal. At the exact time that Britain was interring its Unknown Warrior the same ceremony was being carried out in France, burying its 'Soldat Inconnu' at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
    The tradition of royal brides adding their commemoration was started when Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was married to the future King George VI on 26 April 1923. The brother of the late Queen Mother had died at the Battle of Loos in 1915 and, in a spontaneous gesture, she laid her bouquet on the Tomb on her way into the Abbey as a tribute. Upon her death in 2002 her express wish was that her funeral wreath would be laid on the tomb. Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, dutifully carried out the task. The visit of Alfred Rosenberg, the ideologist and spin doctor to Nazi party, to Britain in 1933 was marked by the laying of a wreath with a Swastika on the tomb. A British war veteran showed his contempt by promptly throwing it into the Thames. The tomb has been described as being honoured by Queens, buried with Kings. In a new project the name of The Unknown Warrior is being re-born in the construction of a new locomotive of the LMS Patriot class.
    In Preservation:
    The Cavell Van was opened to the public on the 11th of November, 2011 at the K&ESR station in Tenterden after a 10 month restoration. The van has been returned to its original pristine condition exactly 90 years to the day that the carriage conveyed the coffin of the Unknown Warrior. The carriage interior has been designed to replicate its appearance in 1920 and features educational displays to describe the historic journeys which it had made. A replica coffin has been installed complete with Union flag. And in a remarkable coincidence the metalwork, plaque and sword were made for the coffin by the grandson, Meurig Williams, of the man who undertook the original work in 1920. The van is now serving as a museum to the three national heroes which it conveyed 90 years ago. There are information panels on Nurse Cavell, Captain Fryatt and the Unknown Soldier, the Cavell Van and the railway history of Ashford. The news coverage of day is screened in footage from the British Pathe Film Archive showing the funeral processions in 1919 and 1920, as well as scenes from the trenches. The museum has been made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund who provided funding and the students of the Holmwood School who have researched the historical background for the displays.

    References and Sources:

    Southern Railway Passenger Vans: David Gould: Oakwood, 1992.
    Illustrated Southern Coaches: Mike King; 2003.
    The Brighton Circular Volume 36-4: Railway Letter Post by Bob Fowler, page 146.
    The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell. The Life Story of the Victim of Germany's Most barbarous Crime: William Thomson Hill: Illustrated London News, 1917.
    The Life of Edith Cavell;; 2010;
    With Edith Cavell in Belgium: Jacqueline Van Til; 20 April 1921: Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine.
    Edith's Death and Army Recruitment: Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum website.
    PRO HO45: Transfer of Body from Belgium to London and Norfolk.
    PRO Wo32/4846: Arrangements for the funeral procession.
    PRO Work 20/128: Nurse Cavell Memorial in St Martins Place, London.
    British Pathe News: Home coming of a Heroine.
    History Heroes: website
    ELMS: Escape Lines Memorial Society:
    Hansard 28 April 1915: vol 71 c698: German submarines (captains of escaped vessels).
    CAB 24/111: reports of the account of capture of Fryatt by Enquiry Committee into Breaches of the Laws of War.
    IWM GB/NNAF/D93236: Arrest (of Fryatt) on the High Seas, trial and execution.
    MT 9/1058: BOT correspondence relating to the death of Captain Fryatt.
    British government Statement on the Execution of Captain Fryatt: August 1916:
    PRO ADM 1/8563/207: Bringing the remains (of Captain Fryatt) to England.
    New York Times: report on the Funeral of Captain Fryatt. 9th July 1919:
    GER Magazine 1916: Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History:
    The Unknown Warrior: Westminster Abbey website;
    Time Magazine: Germany: Rosenberg’s Russia: 1st December 1941.
    Kent and East Sussex Railway:
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