THE CHOSEN ONE; Antiques Roadshow WW1 special l hears hidden story behind Unknown Warrior tomb; My grandfather picked six nameless corpses, draped coffins with Union Flag... then the General selected one to rest in Abbey; Chaplain's grandson Tim Kendall.
HE is Britain's most famous soldier, revered and mourned. Yet no one knows his name.
The Unknown Warrior - a lone hero buried in Westminster Abbey to symbolise all who fell in the First World War - is remembered tonight on TV's Antiques Roadshow.
A unique document published here for the first time was shown to the show's experts - and it challenges accepted versions of the mysterious way the soldier was chosen.
It was written by Army chaplain George Kendall, who helped organise the bringing home of an unidentified body from France in 1920 to represent a million British dead.
His grandson Tim Kendall says: "The Rev George Kendall, of the Royal Naval Division, was the Senior Chaplain in Belgium and France.
"My grandfather selected six corpses without identification marks. He made sure all the coffins looked exactly the same and that there was no evidence of where the bodies came from." Mr Kendall exclusively gave the Sunday People details of the type-written document, which his grandfather did not want published until after his death.
It reads: "I must now proceed to tell the story of the Unknown Warrior. It has been stated that this is the greatest mystery of the First World War. I have been interviewed from time to time by all our great national newspapers, asking me if I knew who he was, could I say where he was actually found.
"Here then is my story, told because the younger generation who go to see the tomb in Westminster Abbey do not know how he was chosen and brought home.
"Six bodies were taken to the headquarters at St Pol, near Arras (northern France). Those who awaited the bodies did not know from where they had come. The six coffins were placed in a hut and each was covered with a Union Jack. All night they rested on trestles, with nothing to distinguish one from the other.
"The door of the hut was locked and sentries posted outside. In the morning a general entered the hut, placed his hand on one of the flagshrouded coffins and the body therein became the Unknown Warrior." The chaplain also said of the ceremony as the body was put on a Royal Navy ship at Boulogne: "I shall never forget the overwhelming solemnity of the procession. Home they were taking this warrior, and all the trumpets sounded on the other side."
The idea to bring back a symbolic Unknown Warrior followed a government decision not to rebury the war dead in Britain. But the process was shrouded in secrecy.
Official records say Brigadier-General L.J.Wyatt made the random selection at midnight on November 7. Some say he was blindfolded. But the Rev Kendall does not mention a blindfold and says it took place next morning. Most significantly, he also contradicts historians who claim four coffins were lined up for selection.
George Kendall OBE was a Methodist minister at Windsor and was an RAF chaplain in the Second World War. His record of his experiences is dated February 1961. Five months later he died aged 79.
Charity adviser Tim Kendall, 46, said: "I discovered my grandfather's effects in a box. When I read his story, I thought, "This is a very significant part of British history'."
Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce said: "In thousands of homes there are mementos from the Great War - letters, medals, personal effects. Many owners have contacted us. Generations later, families are still coming to terms with the war."
Fiona presents tonight's show from the Thiepval Memorial to 72,000 British dead. Here we share some of the stories she recounts.
The Antiques Roadshow: World War One Special is at 8pm tonight on BBC1.
REMEMBERED: The Abbey grave
LAST JOURNEY: King George V places wreath on coffin
MOVING: The internment service at Westminster Abbey
ONE IN A MILLION The Unknown Soldier awaits his burial in Abbey, 1920