‘Known unto God’ – The Headstone of the Unknown Soldier Part Two

Across the hundreds of CWGC cemeteries in Flanders and France, among the many thousands of unidentified soldiers buried within, you will frequently come across headstones marking the graves of unknown men – those pictured above from the Notts & Derby Regiment – whose regiments, if not their names, have been identified. 

In this post we shall look at a variety of headstones to unknown soldiers where identified regiments – those above from the Manchester Regiment on the far left, and the Durham Light Infantry & 16th Lancers on the right – allow an emblem to be added at the top of the headstone, and a regiment to be inscribed beneath ‘A Soldier of the Great War’.

Some are quite unusual, such as these examples from three of the cavalry regiments, from left, 18th Hussars, Queen’s Bays & 9th Lancers,…

…and some, sadly, far less so, although again we will find variations on the way, such as ‘Unknown Bombardier’ on the Royal Field Artillery headstone on the right,…

…or perhaps a date, as in ’30th September 1918′, on the left here, or the straightforward, but far less often seen, ‘Royal Artillery’ on the headstone of the unknown officer on the right.

It would be a practical impossibility to show you an example of an unidentified soldier’s headstone from every regiment in the British Army – there were thirty one cavalry regiments alone at the start of the Great War – and so, for example, here we have Royal Garrison Artillery & Honourable Artillery Company headstones, but you won’t find an unidentified Royal Horse Artillery headstone, because I don’t have, or cannot find, an example in my archives.  All photos enlarge with just a click.  Maybe two.

There’s a very loose geographical connection running through this post, so we begin in the north east, with headstones of unknown men of the Border Regiment, the Durham Light Infantry,…

…and the Northumberland Fusiliers,…

…followed by Tyneside Irish (left) & Tyneside Scottish (right), the headstones of both including ‘N.F.’, both being battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers,…

…three of whom are buried here.  Headstones with two regimental emblems – always neatly combined – are an interesting variation, this example showing how the usual Lancashire Fusilier emblem (see below) loses its square surround and part of its ribbon to accommodate its Northumberland Fusiliers counterpart.

More Lancashire Fusiliers, with an unknown soldier of the Machine Gun Corps on the left.

Two King’s Liverpool Regiment headstones, that on the right marking the grave of ‘A C. Serjt. Major of the Great War’,…

…and two South Lancashire Regiment casualties with, on the left, an unknown soldier of the Cheshire Regiment.

Unknown men of the East Lancashire & Manchester Regiments,…

…and two unidentified Loyal North Lancashire Regiment casualties, the headstones dated 31st July 1917, both men early victims of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Unidentified men of the Royal Lancaster Regiment; the headstone on the right, that of an unknown second lieutenant, probably should say ‘An Officer of the Great War’, but it doesn’t.

Unknown West Yorkshire Regiment soldier & officer,…

…and East Yorkshire Regiment headstones, an unknown corporal on the right.

Two York & Lancaster Regiment graves, that on the right, ‘A Corporal of the Great War’, with a date of April 1918, this man killed during the Battle of the Lys.

Unknown Yorkshire Regiment lance corporal (centre), flanked by two King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry casualties, that on the right an unknown serjeant.

Lincolnshire Regiment casualty,…

…and unknown casualties from the South Staffordshire Regiment & King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (note that this headstone, for some reason, says ‘A British Soldier of the Great War’).

Three unknown soldiers, the third in line identified as a man of the Worcestershire Regiment,…

…as is the unknown man on the right here, with an unidentified Royal Warwickshire Regiment man on the left.

Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry headstones, that on the right undoubtedly unique,…

…unknown Suffolk Regiment casualties,…

…and examples of unidentified headstones to men of the Leicestershire Regiment,…

…and from left, the Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire & Gloucestershire Regiments,…

…Hampshire & Wiltshire Regiments,…

…with another Wiltshire man, this time an unknown officer, on the far right here.

Unidentified Essex Yeomanry casualties,…

..and two Royal Berkshire Regiment headstones, an unknown officer on the right.

Unidentified casualties of the Royal West Kent Regiment & East Kents (The Buffs),…

…two Middlesex Regiment men, an unknown officer on the right,…

…and two Royal Sussex Regiment casualties, an unidentified captain on the right.

Unidentified Queen’s – Royal West Surreys – men, including a corporal and a lance corporal,…

…and, alongside an unknown British captain, an unidentified man of the Bedfordshire Regiment.

Two Devonshire Regiment casualties, an unknown second lieutenant on the right,…

…and unknown men of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry & Somerset Light Infantry.

City of London Rifles casualty, unknown Royal Fusilier,…

…and unknown men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps & The Rifle Brigade.

More unusual headstones, these the graves of four unidentified Royal Guernsey Light Infantry casualties,…

…and a Royal Engineer officer, with an unknown Royal Army Medical Corps man nearest the camera on the right.

Sailors fighting as soldiers; unidentified Royal Marine graves.

Three different headstones to unknown Royal Flying Corps pilots,…

…and two unidentified Royal Air Force lieutenants.

We finish with a row that includes, along with the unknown King’s Liverpool Regiment soldier on the far left, unidentified Scottish & Irish casualties, which might just be what we shall be looking at next post.

‘Known unto God’

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4 Responses to ‘Known unto God’ – The Headstone of the Unknown Soldier Part Two

  1. Nick Kilner says:

    Very nicely done. I must say I find it somewhat surprising to see so many unknown air crew. You’d think that given how few planes were actually flying, it wouldn’t be hard to identify a Lieutenant for example, especially given they have a date of death. Perhaps originally buried by the Germans with no record of the crash location?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks mate. This is the longest of these posts, actually, but there’s a few more shorter ones to come yet. We’ll cover all the likely unidentified headstones one might find by the end. And I thought exactly the same as you with regard to the air crews, and, although I’d have to check the relevant cemeteries, I don’t think all are in cemeteries also used by the Germans. It is a bit odd, I agree.

  2. Jon T says:

    Very nice post as ever MF. With all the old battlefields (mostly) back to their pre-war state (or built over in places) and the cemeteries so immaculate and beautiful in their own way, it can be difficult at times to realise just how terrible these places were during the fighting. For me the many Unknown Soldier graves are one of the things that can offer a slight window into how things were for all those men on both sides of the lines.

    Much like the conundrum of unidentified airmen I do wonder how some of these graves of soldiers have a known date of death but no name ? Perhaps they too were originally buried by the Germans with a grave marker marked with a date ? Or is there another explanation ?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Jon. The date issue on unknown soldiers’ headstones is a bit of a conundrum, but one reason, as in the new cemetery at Fromelles, where many unknown men have a date of death, is soldiers found in mass graves along with others who are identified and whose date of death is known (it helps if it is a recognised battle date, if you see hwta I mean). And it may be that individual graves found on the battlefield, if a regiment can be identified, can then be linked to a specific attack and therefore a specific date.

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