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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a monument dedicated to the services of an unknown 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 war with their remains being unidentified. Following World War I, a movement arose to commemorate these soldiers with a single tomb, containing the body of one such unidentified soldier.



France and the United KingdomEdit

During the First World War, the British and French armies who were allies during the war jointly decided to bury soldiers themselves. In the UK, under the Imperial War Graves Commission (now Commonwealth War Graves Commission), the 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 the UK 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, a similar concern grew in France. In November 1916, a local officer of Le Souvenir français proposed the idea of burying "an ignored soldier" in the Panthéon. A formal bill was presented in Parliament in November 1918. The decision was voted into law on September 1919.[2]

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 the UK, 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.

Other countriesEdit

The idea of a symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier then spread to other countries. In 1921, the Tomb of the Unknowns in the United States, the Túmulo do Soldado Desconhecido in Portugal and the La tomba del Milite Ignoto in Italy were all unveiled. Other nations have followed the practice and created their own tombs.

In the United States and other countries, tombs have also been created representing the fallen of other wars in their history. In Chile and Ukraine, second 'unknown tombs' were unveiled to commemorate The Unknown Sailor.


The Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers typically contain the remains of a dead soldier who is unidentified (or "known but to God" as the stone is sometimes inscribed).[3] These remains are considered impossible to be identified, and so serve as a symbol for all of a country's unknown dead wherever they fell in the war being remembered. The anonymity of the entombed soldier is the key symbolism of the monument; it could be the tomb of anyone who fell in service of the nation, and therefore serves as a monument symbolizing all of the sacrifices.


Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers from around the world and various wars include:

Countries Location Image Description
  Argentina Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires   Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Independence
  Australia Australian War Memorial in Canberra   The tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
  Austria Heldenplatz in Vienna   [citation needed]
  Bangladesh Jatiyo Smriti Soudho in Savar Upazila   Jatiyo Sriti Shoudho (Bengali: জাতীয় স্মৃতি সৌধ Jatio Sriti Shoudho) or National Martyrs' Memorial is the national monument of Bangladesh is the symbol in the memory of the valour and the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, many of whom were buried in mass graves in that park.The monument is located in Savar, about 35 km north-west of the capital, Dhaka. It was designed by Syed Mainul Hossain.
Shikha Onirban or 'Eternal Flame' in Dhaka Shikha Onirban was built to commemorate the valour and the sacrifices of Bangladesh Armed Forces Soldiers died In the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
  Belgium Congress Column in Brussels   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 dead of World War II, Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro.   The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the monument's platform.
Brazilian Monument and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of World War II, near Pistoia, Italy.   Votive Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with monument pavilion.
  Bulgaria Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Sofia  
Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Haskovo.[4]  
  Canada Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial, Confederation Square in Ottawa   [5]
  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 Ciudadanía (Citizenship Square), Santiago Contains the remains of a soldier found in Perú.[citation needed] Died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.
Cripta del Morro de Arica (Morro de 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 Monument on Vítkov Hill in Prague   Contains remains of an unknown Czech soldier fallen at the Battle of Zborov as well as an unknown Czechoslovak soldier fallen at the Battle of Dukla, a part of a larger memorial to all Czechoslovak soldiers.
  Dominican Republic Flag Square of Santo Domingo   The Arc of the Square contains the tomb of the soldier who died for the freedom of the Dominicans in the Dominican War of Independence.
  Egypt Unknown Soldier Memorial in Cairo   Also includes the tomb of President Anwar Sadat.
Alexandria Naval Unknown Soldier Memorial  
  Estonia Defence Forces Cemetery in Tallinn
  Finland Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki   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 de l'Étoile in Paris  
  Gambia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier behind Arch 22 in Banjul  
  Germany Unter den Linden, Berlin   Within a 19th-century guardhouse, the Neue Wache.
  Greece Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Syntagma Square in Athens  
  • Two quotations by Thucydides, from Pericles' Funeral Oration,[6][7] 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 names of battlefields where Greeks have fought since independence are inscribed on the monument.
  • The monument is guarded round the clock by the Evzones of the Presidential Guard.
  Hungary Heroes' Square in Budapest  
  India Amar Jawan Jyoti, New Delhi   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 Hindi (Devanagri script). 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   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.[8]
  Iran Chizar, Tehran   In Iran, unknown soldiers are buried in public places. Chizar is the largest of all.
Behesht Zahra, Tehran  
  Iraq The Monument to the Unknown Soldier, in Grand Festivities Square, Zawra Park, Baghdad   Three monuments in Zawra Park commemmorate Iraq's fallen soldiers; The Monument to the Unknown Soldier (pictured), the Victory Arch (completed in 1989) and the Al-Shaheed Monument (also known as the Martyrs' Monument, completed in 1983). The Monument to the Unknown Soldier was constructed between 1979 and 1982, and replaced an earlier Unknown Soldier's Monument built in 1959 in a different location, but dismantled when the current monument was inaugurated.
  Israel National Memorial Hall For Israel's Fallen in Mount Herzl, Jerusalem   the eternal flame monument to Unknown Soldiers.
  Italy Piazza Venezia in Rome   The Tomb of the Milite Ignoto in the Altare della Patria (Vittoriano).
  Japan Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo  
Ryozen Kannon in Kyoto  
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the World in Ogose, Saitama
Dai Heiwa Kinen Tō in Tondabayashi, Osaka  
  Jordan Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Amman Source: [1]
  Lebanon Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Lebanon, Beirut, Mathaf The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Lebanon represents the forming and independence of the Lebanese Armed Forces from the French Army in 1943.[9] The tomb also commemorates soldiers of the Legion of Orient[10] and the Army of the Levant during the French Mandate of Lebanon from 1920 to 1943.[9] The cenotaph in the middle includes a Cedrus libani tree surrounded by a laurel; the main symbol of Roman Legions. Around the cedar tree and laurel reads in Arabic : "Glory and Immortality for our Martyred Heroes". Behind the cenotaph are original Roman Columns.
  Lithuania Vienybės Square in Kaunas   Tomb of Nežinomas kareivis, with remains of soldier who died in fights against Bolsheviks in 1919.
  Malaysia National Monument in Kuala Lumpur   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.
  Mauritius Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Curepipe
  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   Contains the remains of a soldier who died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.
  Philippines Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig   Contains the remains of Filipino soldiers who have joined the military and served on the Philippine Revolution, Philippine–American War and World War II.
  Poland Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Marshall Józef Piłsudski Square in Warsaw   Constructed as the arcade of Saxon Palace, which was destroyed by the Germans in 1944. Contains the remains of a soldier who died between 1918 and 1920.
  Portugal Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Batalha Monastery  
  Romania Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Carol Park in Bucharest  
  Russia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Alexander Garden in Moscow  
  Serbia Monument to the Unknown Hero on Mt. Avala near Belgrade   Memorial was built on the place where an unknown Serbian World War I soldier was buried.
  Slovenia Monument to the Unknown French Soldier, French Revolution Square in Ljubljana
  Somalia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mogadishu   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 it is an important landmark in Mogadishu.
  Spain Monumento a los Caídos por España, Plaza de la Lealtad in Madrid   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.
Fossar de les Moreres, in Barcelona   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
  Turkey Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial on Gallipoli   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[which?] at the same site is for the foreign soldiers (mostly[citation needed] Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) lost in the same clash.
  Ukraine Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Dnieper Park in Kiev[citation needed]  
Monument to the Unknown Sailor, Shevchenko Park in Odessa  
  United Kingdom Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey in London  
  United States Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia   The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, now called the Tomb of the Unknowns, at Arlington National Cemetery stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.. On March 4, 1921,[citation needed] Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater.

The white marble sarcophagus has a flat-faced form and is relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters, or columns, set into the surface. Sculpted into the east panel which faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. The six wreaths, three sculpted on each side, represent the six major campaigns of World War I.

Inscribed on the back of the Tomb are these words:

Here rests in
honored glory
an American
known but to God.

The Tomb sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. West of the World War I Unknown are the crypts of unknowns from World War II and Korea, plus one empty crypt honoring missing service members from all conflicts. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza. The empty crypt had originally held the remains of an unknown from the Vietnam War, but its occupant was identified in 1998 and his remains returned to his family for burial in St. Louis. There thus remains, as of early October 2017, no "Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War."

Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Washington Square in Philadelphia  
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution
Civil War Unknowns Monument, Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia   Contains the remains of 2,211 unknown Union and Confederate soldiers from Civil War battlefields.
Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi  
  Venezuela Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Carabobo Field, Carabobo   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  

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 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, 1976
  2. ^ (in French) Jean-Yves Le Naour, Le soldat inconnu : la guerre, la mort, la mémoire, Gallimard, 2008, p. 20
  3. ^ Kwon, Heonik (2008). Ghosts of War in Vietnam. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-88061-0. 
  4. ^,en/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "National War Memorial". Archived from the original on May 18, 2009. Retrieved April 21, 2015. 
  6. ^ Thucydides (1942). "2.34.3". Historiae in two volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Available online at the Perseus Project.
  7. ^ Thucydides (1942). "2.43.3". Historiae in two volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Available online at the Perseus Project.
  8. ^ "Netherlands war cemeteries in Indonesia", Netherlands War Graves Foundation
  9. ^ a b "Lebanese Ground Forces". Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  10. ^ "LAF History". Lebanese Armed Forces. Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 

External linksEdit