Edited by Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett.
On Platform One of Paddington Station in London, there is a statue of an unknown soldier; he’s reading a letter. On the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of war everyone in the country was invited to take a moment and write that letter. A selection of those letters are published here, in a new kind of war memorial – one made only of words.
In a year of public commemoration ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ invited everyone to step back from the public ceremonies and take a few private moments to think. Providing a space for people to reconsider the familiar imagery we associate with the war memorials – cenotaphs, poppies, and silence – it asked the following questions: if you could say what you want to say about that war, with all we’ve learned since 1914, with all your own experience of life and death to hand, what would you say? If you were able to send a personal message to this soldier, a man who served and was killed during World War One, what would you write?
The response was extraordinary. The invitation was to everyone and, indeed, all sorts of people responded: schoolchildren, pensioners, students, artists, nurses, serving members of the forces and even the Prime Minister. Letters arrived from all over the United Kingdom and beyond, and many well-known writers and personalities contributed.
Opening on 28th June 2014, the centenary of the Sarajevo assassinations, and closing at 11 pm on the night of 4 August 2014, the centenary of the moment when Prime Minister Asquith announced to the House of Commons that Britain had joined the First World War, this book offers a snapshot of what people in this country and across the world were thinking and feeling about the centenary of World War One.