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A Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a monument in dedication to the services of an unidentified soldier and to the common memories of all soldiers killed in any war. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified. Following the First World War, a movement arose to commemorate these soldiers with a single tomb, containing the body of one such unidentified soldier.

During the First World War, the British and French armies jointly decided to bury soldiers themselves. In Britain, under the Imperial War Graves Commission, Reverend David Railton had seen a grave marked by a rough cross while serving in the British Army as a chaplain on the Western Front, which bore the pencil-written legend "An Unknown British Soldier".[1] He suggested (together with the French in their own country) the creation at a national level of a symbolic funeral and burial of an "Unknown Warrior", proposing that the grave should in Britain include a national monument in the form of what is usually, but not in this particular case, a headstone. The idea received the support of the Dean of Westminster, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and later from King George V, responding to a wave of public support.[1] At the same time, there was a similar undertaking in France, where the idea was debated and agreed upon in Parliament.

The United Kingdom and France conducted services connected with their 'monumental' graves (as presumably newly conceived, and in any case approved, by their respective armies) on Armistice Day 1920 (the burial itself taking place later in January of the following year in France). In Britain, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was created at Westminster Abbey, while in France La tombe du soldat inconnu was placed in the Arc de Triomphe. The idea of a symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier then spread to other countries. In 1921, tombs were unveiled in the United States, Portugal and Italy. Since then, other nations have followed the practice and installed their own tombs. In the United States, further tombs have subsequently been created in order to represent different wars seen as key in its history.

In Chile and Ukraine, a second tomb was unveiled to commemorate The Unknown Sailor.

The tombs typically contain the remains of a dead soldier who is unidentified (or "known but to God" as the stone is sometimes inscribed)[2] and thought to be impossible ever to identify, so that he might serve as a symbol for all of the unknown dead wherever they fell. The anonymity of the entombed soldier is key to the symbolism of the monument: since his identity is unknown, it could theoretically be the tomb of anyone who fell in service of the nation in question, and therefore serves as a monument to all of their sacrifices. Much work goes into trying to find a certain soldier, and to verify that it is indeed one of the relevant nation's soldiers.

The other places that have tombs of the unknown soldiers:

Countries Location Image Description
Argentina Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires Facade BA Metropolitan Church.jpg Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Independence
Australia Australian War Memorial in Canberra Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Australia).jpg The tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Austria Heldenplatz in Vienna Statue of Archduke Charles of Austria on the Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square).jpg [citation needed]
Belgium Congress Column in Brussels Colonne du Congrès Bxl.02.JPG The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the location.
Bolivia Monumento al Soldado Desconocido in La Paz The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, center piece of the location.[citation needed]
Brazil Monument to the Pracinhas in Rio de Janeiro Pracinhas-CCBY.jpg The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the platform of the location.
Bulgaria Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Sofia Unknown-soldier-sofia-1.jpg
Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Haskovo[citation needed]
Canada Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial, Confederation Square in Ottawa Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Tombe du Soldat inconnu.jpg [3]
Chile General Manuel Baquedano Square in Santiago Contains the remains of a soldier who died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.[citation needed]
Plaza de la Cuidadanía (Citizenship Square), Santiago de Chile Contains the remains of a soldier found in Zig Zag, Perú.[citation needed] Died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.
Cripta del Morro de Arica (Rock of Arica Crypt), Arica Contains the remains of a soldier found in 1998.[citation needed] Died during the War of the Pacific.
Unknown Sailor Monument A monument built in honor to the sailors that fought and died in the Battle of Iquique, a naval battle off the coast of Chile.
Czech Republic National Memorial on Vítkov Hill in Prague Praha, Vítkov, památník.JPG contains remains of a soldier fallen at the Battle of Zborov as a part of a larger memorial to all Czechoslovak soldiers
Egypt Unknown Soldier Memorial in Cairo Nasrcity.jpg Also includes the tomb of President Anwar Sadat.
Estonia Defence Forces Cemetery in Tallinn 100px
Finland Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki Hietaniemen hautausmaa ilmasta.jpg In the centre of the military cemetery are the tombs of the unknown soldier and Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.
France Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris Unknownsoldier paris.jpg
Germany Unter den Linden, Berlin Berlin, Neue Wache, exterior view, may 2006.jpg Within a 19th-century guardhouse, the Neue Wache
Greece $3 on Syntagma Square in Athens EVZONES GROUP.JPG
  • Two quotations by Thucydides, from Pericles' Funeral Oration,[4][5] are inscribed on the retaining wall: Μία κλίνη κενὴ φέρεται ἐστρωμένη τῶν ἀφανῶν ("... and one bed is carried empty, made for the unknown ones"), and Ἀνδρῶν ἐπιφανῶν πᾶσα γῆ τάφος ("The whole earth is the burial ground of famous men"). The inscriptions flank a central sculpture in low relief, depicting a dying hoplite.
  • The monument is guarded round the clock by the Evzones of the Presidential Guard.
Hungary Heroes' Square in Budapest Heroes Square Budapest 2010 01.jpg
India India Gate, New Delhi Amarjavan.JPG Burning in a shrine under the arch of India Gate since 1971 is the Amar Jawan Jyoti (the flame of the immortal soldier) which marks the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The shrine itself is a black marble cenotaph with a rifle placed on its barrel, crested by a soldier's helmet. Each face of the cenotaph has inscribed in gold the words "Amar Jawan" (Immortal Warrior) in the Hindi language.[6] The Prime Minister of India pays homage to the country's fallen soldiers along with the Chiefs of Staff of each arm of the Armed Forces on each Republic Day of India.
Indonesia The Pandu war cemetery at Bandung Kembangkuning.jpg The Field of Honor is a memorial to the unknown soldier. There is also the Tomb of the Unknown (Dutch) Sailor in Kembang Kuning war cemetery in Surabaya.[7]
Iraq The Monument to the Unknown Soldier, Baghdad
Israel Garden of the Missing Soldiers in Mount Herzl, Jerusalem Garden of the Missing in Action IMG 1299.JPG Initially called the "Unknown Soldier Monument", the garden commemorates IDF soldiers whose burial place is unknown. A National Memorial Hall featuring a new memorial to the Unknown Soldier is scheduled to open nearby in 2015.
Italy Piazza Venezia in Rome Milite Ignoto in Altare della Patria in Vittoriano in Rome.jpg The Tomb of the Milite Ignoto in the Altare della Patria (Vittoriano)
Japan Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo Chidorigafuchi04s3072.jpg
Ryozen Kannon in Kyoto Ryozen Kannon Memorial to Unknown Soldier.jpg
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the World in Ogose, Saitama
Dai Heiwa Kinen Tō in Tondabayashi, Osaka Torre da Paz.jpg
Lithuania Vienybės Square in Kaunas Kaunas. Paminklas zuvusiems uz laisve. 2007-04-06.jpg Tomb of Nežinomas kareivis, with remains of soldier who died in fights against Bolsheviks in 1919.
Malaysia National Monument in Kuala Lumpur Tugu negara.jpg Completed in 1966 to commemorate combatants who fought against Japanese occupation of pre-independence Malaysia in World War II and the Malayan Races Liberation Army insurgency during the Malayan Emergency. Also includes a pre-independence cenotaph, which was shifted from its original location closer to the old town of Kuala Lumpur, commemorating the war dead of World War I, World War II and the Malayan Emergency.
Namibia Heroes' Acre in Windhoek The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier contains soil from Cassinga and Oshatotwa from the Namibian War of Independence.
New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, National War Memorial in Wellington
Peru Plaza Bolivar in Lima Congreso del Perú.JPG Contains the remains of a soldier who died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.
Philippines Heroes' Cemetery in Manila Contains the remains of Filipino soldiers who have joined the military and served on the Philippine Revolution, Philippine–American War and World War II.
Shrine of Valour in Bataan Contains the remains of the valiant Filipino and American soldiers who had fallen in the Battle of Bataan during World War II.
Poland Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Marshall Józef Piłsudski Square in Warsaw IWarszawajh1.jpg Constructed as the arcade of Saxon Palace, which was destroyed in 1944. Contains the remains of a soldier who died between 1918 and 1920.
Portugal Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Batalha Monastery Chapter house of Mosteiro da Batalha (2).jpg
Romania Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Carol Park in Bucharest RO B Tomb Unknown Soldier Bucharest.jpg
Russia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Alexander Garden in Moscow 100px
Serbia Monument to the Unknown Hero on Mt. Avala near Belgrade Monument to the Unknown Hero Avala1.jpg
Slovenia Monument to the Unknown French Soldier, French Revolution Square in Ljubljana
Somalia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mogadishu City Centre. Somalia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.jpg A monument erected in honour of the Somali men and women who died in defense of the Somali Republic. It's popularly known as Daljirka Dahsoon, and its an important landmark in Mogadishu.
Spain Monumento a los Caídos por España, Plaza de la Lealtad in Madrid Obelisco Dos de mayo (Madrid) 01.jpg Popularly known as the Obelisco ("Obelisk"), it is built on the same place where General Joachim Murat ordered the execution of numerous Spaniards after the Dos de Mayo Uprising of 1808. Originally inaugurated on May 2, 1840, it was re-inaugurated on November 22, 1985, by Juan Carlos I of Spain as a remembrance to all those who gave their life for Spain. An eternal flame fuelled by gas has been constantly burning on the front of the monument.
Spain Fossar de les Moreres,in Barcelona Fossar de les Moreres.JPG The Fossar de les Moreres is a memorial plaza in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain), adjacent to the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. The plaza was built over a cemetery where defenders of the city were buried following the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. The plaza retains its everyday use as a public space, but also prominently features a memorial to the fallen Catalans of the war, with a torch of eternal flame and a heroic poem by Frederic Soler, "El Fossar de les Moreres".
Syria Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Damascus 100px
Turkey Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial on Gallipoli Çanakkale Şehitleri Anıtı.JPG Erected for the unknown martyrs of the Çanakkale Front, which was the arena for the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. Opened on 20 August 1960. Another monument at the same site is for the foreign soldiers (mostly Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) lost in the same clash.
Ukraine Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Dnieper Park in Kiev[citation needed] Kiev's unknown soldier.jpg
Monument to the Unknown Sailor, Shevchenko Park in Odessa Odessa Denkmal des unbekannten Matrosen.jpg
United Kingdom Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey in London 100px
United States Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia Tomb of the Unknowns, with U.S. Navy sailor and woman, May 1943.jpg
Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Washington Square in Philadelphia Tomb-unknown-soldier-philadelphia.jpg
Civil War Unknowns Monument, Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia Civil War Unknowns Memorial - E side - Arlington National Cemetery - 2011.JPG
Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi Beauvoir Confederate States Unknown Soldier Tomb.jpg
Venezuela Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Carabobo Field, Carabobo 100px Contains the remains of a Venezuelan soldier who died in 1824 during the Battle of Ayacucho
Zimbabwe Statue of the Unknown Soldier at the National Heroes Acre, Harare Heroes Acre Monument, Harare, Zimbabwe.jpg

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Henry Allingham, Dennis Goodwin (2011). "Kitchener's Last Volunteer: The Life of Henry Allingham, the Oldest Surviving Veteran of the Great War". p. 132. Random House, 2011
  2. Kwon, Heonik (2008). Ghosts of War in Vietnam. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-88061-0. 
  4. Thucydides (1942). "2.34.3". Historiae in two volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Available online at the Perseus Project.
  5. Thucydides (1942). "2.43.3". Historiae in two volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Available online at the Perseus Project.
  7. "Netherlands war cemeteries in Indonesia", Netherlands War Graves Foundation

External links

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