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February 20 , 2008

The Unknown Soldier


Of all the million British dead of the First World War, only one - the Unknown Soldier - was ever returned to his native land. An anonymous symbol of all those lost without trace in the carnage of the battlefields, he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey amid an outpouring of grief that brought the whole nation to a standstill, far outweighing even the emotion expressed over the death of Princess Diana over eighty years later. Inspired by this example, almost every combatant nation buried its own Unknown Soldier and the graves became the focus of a pilgrimage that still continues today.

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Drawing on largely unpublished letters and diaries, Neil Hanson has resurrected the lives and experiences of three unknown soldiers - a Briton, a German and an American. Every word is based on the testimony of those who fought, those who died and those who mourned. Few books have ever shown the terrible reality of warfare in such compelling, unforgettable detail, or told such a moving story of human life and loss.

Amid all their sufferings, the common humanity of the men and their loved ones shines through. Each soldier lives on in the memory of his family to this day. They stand at the head of a ghost army three million strong, all of whom have no known grave. Their story is the story of the Unknown Soldier.

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