Rail van that carried Unknown Soldier to form backdrop for Remembrance Service

A Service of Remembrance will take place on 11 November at Bodiam Station on the Kent & East Sussex heritage railway line (KESR), against the backdrop of the vehicle which carried the Unknown Warrior from Dover to London.

The Cavell Van, carried the bodies of three First World War heroes on their final journeys more than 100 years ago. One of them was Nurse Edith Cavell, who was shot by a German firing squad after helping escaped British prisoners, and it was in her honour that railwaymen gave the van its name.

It also carried Charles Fryatt, a Channel ferry captain who was executed after being falsely accused of trying to sink a submarine. In 1920, it saw service a third time, conveying the body of the ‘Unknown Warrior’, his sacrifice representing the hundreds of thousands of British soldiers who had not returned from the Great War.

Pullman and Cavell van enroute to Bodiam.

David Nibloe, Trustee of the KESR and local Ewhurst resident, said: ‘We are so privileged to have this unique piece of history preserved on the railway and exhibited at Bodiam station. The stories of these heroes are a prompt to us all to pause and reflect on what was sacrificed during times of war to secure the freedoms we all enjoy today’.

A short act of Remembrance will take place at Bodiam station on Thursday 11 November. The station will be open from 10.30am to those who wish to participate and the ceremony will begin just before 11am when the two-minute silence will be observed.

The ceremony will be led by Rev Canon Christopher Irvine, Priest-in-Charge of the Parishes of Bodiam and Ewhurst. All are welcome to join the act of Remembrance and the Cavell Van will be open for viewing following the ceremony.

Nurse Cavell’s body was carried in the van as part of the final journey to her resting place at Norwich Cathedral. The Unknown Warrior’s return was a huge event attended by the Royal family and members of the Government. One million people visited his grave in Westminster Abbey during the following week.

Some parking for the Remembrance Day service will be available adjacent to Bodiam station, with further facilities at the National Trust’s Bodiam Castle a short walk away.

The Kent & East Sussex Railway runs trains through more than 10 miles of beautiful Rother Valley countryside, from Tenterden to Bodiam, typically from April to October and in normal times attracts 90,000 visitors a year. It was the first light railway opened in Britain under the Light Railways Act of 1896, built by Holman F. Stephens.

Image credits: Istockphoto.com / Kent & East Sussex Railway

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