Books and Reading: Letter to an Unknown Soldier

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Today I’m not recommending a book, nor am I recommending a magazine. Today, I’m recommending a website, a website with lots of things to read and this is the 1418 website which is hSoldier Statueosting the Letter to an Unknown Soldier project.

This project was inspired by a statue of an unknown soldier in London’s Paddington Station to commemorate the 100th year Anniversary of World War One. The project asked for letters to be written to the Unknown Soldier but this was to be loosely followed with people writing to the soldier, from the soldier and some were just general ponderings. The project is now finished and the Unknown Soldier can no longer receive any more letters but all of the letters are now stored on the 1418 website creating a new kind of War Memorial. Letters will be shown on the website until 2018 when they will be transferred and stored in the British Library.

For a more in depth version of what I just said, here is some information from the website itself: ‘The website opened on the 28th June 2014, the centenary of the Sarajevo assassinations, and close at 11pm on the night of 4th August 2014, the centenary of the moment when Prime Minister Asquith announced to the House of Commons that Britain had joined the First World War. As the letters arrived, they were all published on the website and made available for everyone to read.

Letter to Unknown Soldier will be archived here, as part of 14-18 NOW, until 2018. After that, all of the letters will be archived in the British Library where they will remain permanently accessible online, providing a snapshot of what people in this country and across the world were thinking and feeling about the centenary of WW1.’

Many celebrities have taken part in the project such as Stephen Fry and our own Prime Minister, David Cameron. Not only that but many schools took part including my own, even I have taken part. I’ll enter my letter at the end of this blog post if anyone wants to read it. I then urge you to go over to the website and read some of the worlds’ letters.

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Disclaimer – I do not own the picture, it is from: http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/war-and-conflict/first-world-war/art488420-Statue-of-the-Unknown-Soldier-receives-over-4000-letters-in-First-World-War-Centenary-project

 

Letter from an Unknown Soldier:

Tension has been building ever so slowly, as time goes on, the more we grow silent. There’s a chill in the air making everything feel unpleasant, the sinister wind is whispering tales to us from the future. I didn’t have any sleep last night, as the fear in my stomach fluttered, the anticipation numbs my thoughts, my very feelings. I haven’t eaten breakfast this morning, although I was served a hearty meal, I couldn’t eat a bite. I feel like a condemned man, awaiting the dark that’s inevitable. The others and I don’t bear to look into each other’s eyes for we do not know who will still be here in the coming hours. When the whistle blows, I may not be here either.

So this is my last goodbye I suppose, I hope my efforts and the efforts of my comrades do make a difference, that they’re worth it later tonight, worth it when the wars over, worth it in 100 years. Don’t cry, as I presume you already are, for I will finally be in peace, in my heart, as I won’t have to suffer the images of my friends, my brothers, dying… to finally see the end of the cries, the gunshots, to stop fearing death… it will be a great pleasure. When I’m in Heaven, I can once again enjoy the sweet sound of music, the taste of those boiled sweets, the baking you made for me the last time we spoke and I will once again be able to see my boys as they play football in the streets. I’ll forever be watching, my love.

***

Dear Mrs. Locke.
            It is my painful duty to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying the death of: Corporal Edward Locke, which occurred on the front lines.
            By His Majesty’s command I am to forward the enclosed message of sympathy from Their Gracious Majesties the King and Queen, I am at the same time to express the regret of the Army Council at his passing in his Country’s service.
            Any information that may be received as to the soldier’s burial will be communicated to you in due course. A separate leaflet dealing more fully with this subject is enclosed.
Will you also kindly accept my sincere sympathy and condolence in the demise of such a worthy citizen and heroic soldier. While one cannot too deeply mourn the loss of such a brave comrade and husband, I believe comfort can be taken in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly and well, and gave his life for the protection of his country.
            Again extending to you my heartfelt sympathy.                                                                             Faithfully, Major General William Phelps.

***

I’m just an unknown soldier, going to die amongst other unknown faces, I know that. So remember, when you see an Unknown Soldier show him love for his name has already been forgotten… make sure his face isn’t.

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