Shutterings and Mutterings: A Creative Blog

Lead soldier saluting outside the North Door of London's Westminster Abbey

Honouring the Unknown Warrior

On November 11, 1920, the body of an unknown British soldier picked at random from four unidentified bodies exhumed from Western Front battlefields was carried from London's Victoria Station to Westminster Abbey and given the funeral of a king in the presence of King George V.

The ceremonial burial of an unknown soldier provided a grieving nation a moment of catharthis and many thousand of people subsequently visited the grave to pay their respects. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is now the only gravestone in Westminster Abbey the public are not permitted to stand on.

Lead soldier playing the bugle outside the North Door of London's Westminster Abbey

To mark the centenary of the ceremony, I decided to extend my photographic project from 2018 and did some research to find out which doorway the coffin would have been carried through. Accounts online mentioned the North Door and a helpful attendant outside the abbey when I visited confirmed that this was correct.

North faces are a challenge since they are always in shadow. However, on the days I visited the sky was overcast which meant I had to use a ridiculously high ISO setting - 3600 - but at least the light was even.

In addition to still pictures I also took along a video camera and recorded some footage for a short piece about the project - all good practice for working with Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition.

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Why didn't you go inside the abbey to photograph the tomb? This was November 2020 while the UK was in the grip of its second lockdown against the curse of Coronavirus. The main part of Westminster Abbey was closed to visitors but I'll go along once things ease up. Westminster Abbey website

Where did you get the toy soldiers from? Most of them were found at the Thursday antiques market at Spitalfields, east London. However, I got the very smart fellow in the black uniform from the The Guards Toy Soldier Centre in Birdcage Walk, London - well worth a visit if you're passing that way. The displays have been set out with the care of a museum or gallery and the staff are very pleasant and helpful.

Are you planning to exhibit these images anywhere? Maybe once the Covid crisis lifts... we'll see.

You might enjoy my You Tube video stream.