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Unknown Warrior's historic WW1 train carriage to be unveiled


A restored First World War train carriage is due to be unveiled today - exactly 90 years after it transported home the Unknown Warrior’s body.

The Cavell Van, now returned to its original appearance, was due to be opened to the public at the Kent and East Sussex Railway (KESR) station in Tenterden, after a successful £35,000 preservation campaign.

It comes 90 years to the day the carriage conveyed Unknown Warrior’s remains through Kent for burial in London and has a replica coffin.

The van also brought home the remains of two other war heroes, a nurse and merchant seaman, both shot by the Germans.

Norman Brice, chairman of KESR said: “Our project has attracted a great deal of attention and interest but perhaps the most striking aspect was that the metalwork, plaque and sword were fitted to the replica coffin by the grandson (Meurig Williams) of the man who undertook the original work in 1920.”

Unveiling the plaque at today’s dedication ceremony is Admiral The Lord Boyce, Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle.

The Heritage Lottery Fund completed the funding with £27,000.

The carriage interior has been designed to replicate its appearance on November 10, 1920, when it was used to carry the body of the Unknown Warrior from Dover Docks to London’s Victoria Station.

There it lay overnight before burial in the presence of King George V in Westminster Abbey.

Now the 1919-built van’s interior has a display with the replica of the Unknown Warrior’s Coffin, constructed by KESR volunteers, with a Union flag.

The Cavell Van was named after one of the two other war heroes it repatriated.

Edith Cavell, a London nurse, moved to Belgium as a director of a nurses’ training school in Brussels.

After the First World War broke out she helped allied soldiers escaped the Germans and she was arrested, court martialled and shot on October 12, 1915.

Her body was brought back by Van No132 in May 1919.

The third person was Captain Charles Fryatt who used his vessel to try to ram a German U-Boat in March 1915 instead of stopping as ordered.

He was caught the following year when his ship was surrounded by enemy destroyers and he was executed after a show trial. His remains returned on the Cavell Van in July 1919.

The public exhibition will have information panels on both Cavell and Fryatt plus the Unknown Soldier, the Cavell Van and Ashford’s railway history.

Newsreels with footage from The British Pathe Film Archive will show scenes from 1919 and 1920 and the three burial processions as well as scenes from the trenches.

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