Historian, Craig Tibbitts from the Australian War Memorial gives a brief history of the Unknown Australian Soldier.
The unknown soldier
In Episode 16 of Collected, Louise Maher discovers the history of the Unknown Soldier, meets the tomb’s caretaker and hears the story of the pigeon determined to share this sacred space by building a nest of poppies.
The original unknown soldier was entombed in Westminster Abbey in London on 11 November 1920, two days after being brought from France. His body had been selected by General Wyatt from among four, each draped in the Union Jack; they had been recovered from the British battlefields of the Somme, Aisne, Arras, and Ypres. The soldier was assumed to have been British (though he could have been a Canadian, a New Zealander, or even an Australian) but he was intended to represent all the young men of the British Empire killed during the Great War. On the same date, an unknown French soldier was buried under the Arc de Triomphe, and several other allied nations soon entombed unknown soldiers of their own.
Plans to honour an unknown Australian soldier were first put forward in the 1920s but it was not until 1993 that one was at last brought home. To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the body of an unknown Australian soldier was recovered from Adelaide Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneux in France and transported to Australia. After lying in state in King's Hall in Old Parliament House, Unknown Australian Soldier was interred in the Hall of Memory at the Memorial on 11 November 1993. He was buried with a bayonet and a sprig of wattle in a Tasmanian blackwood coffin, and soil from the Pozières battlefield was scattered in his tomb.
The Unknown Australian Soldier represents all Australians who have been killed in war.
Photograph taken by Steve Burton.