British troops running along the lip of the Lochnagar mine crater at La Boisselle, 23rd October 1916. © IWM (Q1479)

The Unknown soldier

As part of the World War 1 Centenary (sponsored by The Heritage Lottery Fund) a project entitled ‘The Unknown soldier’ was created by Brendan Maitland for secondary schools. The aim was to link one pupil to one unknown soldier, for every unknown soldier that died at La Boisselle on July 1st 1916.

Pupils received a bookmark containing a soldier’s details. They used this information to complete the soldier’s gravestone and story.  The completed records have been used to create the Virtual Cemetery. The Un in Unknown has been struck through to symbolise the fact that the soldier is now known by another person.  The soldier’s record finishes:

“The record of Private Joseph POULTON has been compiled as part of the World War 1 Centenary and Joseph POULTON who is an unknown soldier, is now known by John Smith, Farnley Academy, May 2018

The Tommy Atkins Award

Each school has also received an award known as the Tommy Atkins award. This is made from a bottle dug up from the battlefield at La Boisselle and it will create a legacy for the project by being awarded annually.  As bottles were used to mark graves in the battlefield, the award contained the names of all the soldiers’ records completed by the pupils. The award will be – ‘For Service To Others’

What does the term Unknown mean?

An unknown soldier is one whose body has never been found or whose body cannot be recognised.  The bodies that cannot be recognised are buried in unknown graves inscribed – “KNOWN UNTO GOD.” All unknown soldiers have their names inscribed on a memorial.

  • For the first time the unknown soldiers that died at La Boisselle have their own gravestone
  • The aim is for every soldier to be recognised as an individual and have their story read at least once a year
Thank you to all the schools that made this project possible.
Mount St Mary's Catholic High, Leeds
Farnley Academy, Leeds
St Thomas More RC Academy, Teeside
Wolfreton High School, Hull
Darton College, Barnsley
Beverley High School
Morley Academy, Leeds
Bruntcliffe Academy, Leeds