1. Letter to an Unknown Soldier is an online memorial commissioned as part of the 1418 Now cultural programme to commemorate the centenary of World War I.
The project, founded by writers Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger, was inspired by Charles Sargeant Jagger’s statue of an anonymous First World War soldier reading a letter, which stands on platform one in London’s Paddington station.
2. People are writing messages to the unknown soldier contemplating the realities of war and all we’ve learned since 1914. Famous letter-writers include Joanna Lumley (below), Stephen Fry, and Louise Welsh.
3. More than 17,000 people in the UK have submitted a letter to the Letter to an Unknown Soldier website. Even Theresa May, the home secretary, has written a heartfelt message.
4. Here are a few of the letters submitted to the project.
“Like most things, this letter is late but I hope not too late. I found out about you only the other week, I have read about you and have wondered who you were, and how you would have felt at being the unknown soldier. Everyone should have a name. I wish I knew yours. After all these years, you haven’t been forgotten. And you never will be forgotten. It was such a shame you and the others were lost [by the] in such terrible circumstances. I wish I could have met you. I wish I could have asked you what you thought of all the things that happened in the trenches. One thing that I hope is that you are resting peacefully.”
“You are one man who stands for millions,
And will always be remembered by trillions.
Your bravery to fight at war,
And by this action therefore.
Saved the lives of man,
When the terrible war began.
We thank you very much,
Because you’re such.
A gallant hero,
Who is hated by zero.
And you’ll earn this place in my heart,
And we’ll never be apart…”
“In mud and slime
You face the mighty Hun
Through No Mans Land
The threat of German gun
Entrenched in warfare
Started not by you
But Kaiser Wilhelm
German through and through
Go to war
Perhaps to gain some land
By any door
Whilst you dear friend
Have little there to gain
Apart from stress and anguish
And some pain.
To fight all wars
Is sinful unto God
We must get through
To those who rule by rod
That you and I don’t wish
To stand and fight
And with God’s help
Win over might.”
“I am a 14 year old girl writing in 2014. You have made a massive sacrifice to your country, England. But to be honest I don’t think any of you soldiers should have been fighting. It’s not your responsibility!
My life is near normal unlike yours. Mix-races are together, I don’t have to think of anything about fighting only to get my homework done and worry about exams. I do appreciate what you did for us.
The poppy’s are there to remember you and the other fighting soliders. Poppy’s were their at the end of the war so you might not have seen them before. But they’re beautiful and represent the world war.
On the other hand you shouldn’t have fought, none of you should, you let your family get heartbroken that you’re not officially involved in. It’s the leaders that should be fighting, not you and the other soldiers. They lay back on their chair just directing and telling you what to do; it is definitely ‘lion’s led by donkey’s!’ They think it’s good to put soldiers on the first line! Do they really know?
Like I said I do appreciate what you did.”
“Here I am writing a letter to you. My name is Sofia I am 8 years old.
I would like to know your name because if you want to know someone you have to know their name.
Life now is better then in WWI In 2014.
How do you feel in WWI? If you want to make someone like you have to know there feeling so If there sad you can help them.”
10. The website will remain open for submissions until 11pm on 4 August 2014. This is a reading of a letter submitted by writer Timberlake Wertenbaker.
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