A special collaboration between the Military Wives Choirs and Westminster City Council to commemorate one of the most poignant centenaries of the First World War: the burial of the Unknown Warrior.

A story of one nameless serviceman who, 100 years ago, was brought home from the battlefields of the First World War

During the course of WW1, over 1.7 million servicemen and women from Britain and countries that would later become the Commonwealth lost their lives. A decision taken at that time meant that no bodies were ever to be repatriated.

Hundreds of thousands of these would never receive a proper burial. Many were left in unmarked graves on the battlefields where they fell. Some were simply never found, adding to the painful grief already felt by their families.

To ease the nation’s suffering, Reverend David Railton, a chaplain who had himself served on the Western Front, wrote to the Dean of Westminster, Herbert Ryle, with an idea. An idea that in November 1920 saw one of the fallen – rank, regiment, service all unknown – returned from the battlefields of Europe and buried in Westminster Abbey with all the honour a war and flu-ravaged country could muster.

A story of the hymn that accompanied him to his final resting place on 11 November 1920

The hymns sung in the funeral service were recorded using experimental equipment by two sound engineers, one of them an officer in the newly formed Royal Air Force. The quality of these was so variable that only two songs were deemed fit for release. They became the first electrical recordings ever sold to the public.

To commemorate the centenary of the Unknown Warrior’s final journey and burial, members of the Military Wives Choirs from across the UK have come together to record a new version of the best-known, and best-loved of those songs: 'Abide with Me'.

Watch the full music video:


Collage of the Military Wives Choir recording the song

Last updated: 11 November 2020