Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified. In modern times, nations have developed the practice of having a symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that represents the war grave of those unidentified soldiers. They usually contain the remains of a dead soldier who is unidentified (or "known but to God" as the stone is sometimes inscribed) and thought to be impossible ever to identify, so that he might serve as a symbol for all of the unknown dead wherever they fell. The anonymity of the entombed soldier is key to the symbolism of the monument - since their identity is unknown, it could theoretically be the tomb of anyone who fell in service of the nation in question, and therefore serves as a monument to all of their sacrifices. Much work goes into trying to find a certain soldier, and to verify that it is indeed one of the relevant nation's soldiers.


Perhaps the first memorial of this kind in the world is the 1858 Landsoldaten ("The Foot Soldier") monument of the First War of Schleswig in Fredericia, Denmark. Another early memorial of this kind is the 1866 memorial to the unknown dead of the American Civil War.

The modern trend was started by the United Kingdom in 1920 when she buried an Unknown Warrior on behalf of all First World War British Empire forces in Westminster Abbey. The coffin was followed into the abbey by the King-Emperor, George V and escorted by a guard of honour formed of one hundred recipients of the Victoria Cross. Part of the inscription on the stone reads:

They buried him among the kings Because he Had done good toward God and Toward His house

Other nations followed this example. A famous tomb is the one in France under the Arc de Triomphe that was installed in 1921 honouring the unknown dead of the First World War, or the one in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada shadowed by the Canadian War Memorial.

These tombs are also used to commemorate the unidentified fallen of later wars. Monuments have been built as recently as 1982 in the case of Iraq, 1993 in the case of Australia, and 2004 in the case of New Zealand.

National examples

Country Location Image Description
Argentina Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Independence
Australia Australian War Memorial in Canberra
Austria Heldenplatz in Vienna
Belgium Colonnade of the Congress in Brussels The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the location.
Bolivia Monumento al Soldado Desconocido in La Paz The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, center piece of the location.
Brazil Monument to the Pracinhas in Rio de Janeiro The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the platform of the location.
Bulgaria Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Sofia
Bulgaria Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Haskovo
Canada Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial, Confederation Square, in Ottawa
Chile General Manuel Baquedano Square in Santiago Contains the remains of a soldier who died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.
Czech Republic National Memorial on Žižkov (Vítkov) Hill in Prague
Denmark Fredericia Called Landsoldaten ("The Foot Soldier") monument.
Egypt Unknown Soldier Memorial (Cairo) Also includes the tomb of President Anwar Sadat.
Estonia Cemetery of the Estonian Defence Forces in Tallinn.
Finland Hietaniemi military cemetery in Helsinki
France Beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
Germany Unter den Linden, Berlin Within a 19th century guardhouse, the Neue Wache
Greece Syntagma Square (Constitution Square), Athens
Hungary Heroes' Square, Budapest
Iraq The Monument to the Unknown Soldier, Baghdad
India India Gate, New Delhi Amar Jawan Jyoti (Flame of the Immortal Warrior)
Indonesia Bandung The Field of Honor is a memorial to unknown soldiers. There is also the Tomb of the Unknown (Dutch) Sailor in Kembang Kuning war cemetery in Surabaya.
Italy Rome, Piazza Venezia The Tomb of the Milite Ignoto in the Altare della Patria (Vittoriano)
Japan Ryozen Kannon, Kyoto Monument erected in memory of the more than 48,000 foreign soldiers who perished on Japanese territory or on territory under Japanese military control.
Lithuania Kaunas, Vienybės Square Tomb of Nežinomas kareivis, with remains of soldier who died in fights with Bolsheviks in 1919.
Malaysia Tugu Negara, Kuala Lumpur Completed in 1966 to commemorate combatants who fought against Japanese occupation of pre-independence Malaysia in World War II and the Malayan National Liberation Army insurgency during the Malayan Emergency. Also includes a pre-independence cenotaph, which was shifted from its original location closer to the old town of Kuala Lumpur, commemorating the war dead of World War I, World War II and the Malayan Emergency.
New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, National War Memorial in Wellington
Peru Plaza Bolivar (Bolivar Square) in Lima Contains the remains of a soldier who died in 1881 during the War of the Pacific.
Philippines Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes) in Manila
Poland Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Marshall Józef Piłsudski Square in Warsaw Constructed as the arcade of Saxon Palace, which was destroyed in 1944. Contains the remains of a soldier who died between 1918 and 1920.
Portugal Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Monastery of Batalha
Romania Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Carol Park, Bucharest
Russia Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Alexander Park, Moscow
Serbia Monument to the Unknown Hero, Mt. Avala, Belgrade
Slovenia Monument to the Unknown French Soldier, French Revolution Square in Ljubljana
Spain Obelisk to Second of May Uprising Heroes (in Spanish: Héroes del Dos de Mayo) and, since 1985 Monument to Fallen for Spain (Caídos por España), Madrid Built in 1840. It contains mortal remains of unknown combatants at Dos de Mayo Uprising
Syria Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Damascus.
Turkey Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial (in Turkish: Çanakkale Şehitleri Anıtı) Erected for the unknown martyrs of the Çanakkale Front, which was the arena for the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. Opened on 20th August 1960. Another monument at the same site is for the foreign soldiers (mostly Australian and New Zealand Army Corps [ANZAC]) lost in the same clash.
Ukraine Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Dnieper Park, Kiev
Ukraine Monument to the Unknown Sailor, Shevchenko Park in Odessa
United Kingdom Tomb of The Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey in London
United States Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
United States Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Washington Square in Philadelphia
United States Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, Beauvoir, Biloxi, Mississippi
Venezuela Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Carabobo Field, Carabobo


External links

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