The Flag

The Story of Revd David Railton MC and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

Andrew Richards

While a chaplain to British units on the Western Front, David Railton carried a flag that served as both altar cloth and shroud for the dead. Traumatised by his experiences, it was his idea to bring home an unidentified soldier to be buried in Westminster Abbey.
Publication date:
November 2017
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
16 pages of photos
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781612004471

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
In Stock
ISBN : 9781612007496

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
In Stock
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• The horror and pain witnessed by chaplain David Railton on the Western front led him to the idea for the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
• This is not only a moving story of one man's experience of WWI, but offers a unique perspective on the experiences of British soldiers on the Western Front and the chaplains who went right into battle to support and sustain soldiers surrounded by death
• The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is a well-known landmark in Westminster Abbey
• This book explains how the idea came out of Railton's traumatic experiences on the Western Front, and how he made his idea become reality
• The account includes excerpts from the letters Railton wrote from the front
• Foreword written by the Dean of Westminster The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II

Reverend David Railton MC served as a chaplain on the Western Front during World War I. Attached to three divisions between 1916 and 1918, Railton supported the soldiers in their worst moments, he buried the fallen, comforted the wounded, wrote to the families of the missing and killed, and helped the survivors to remember and mark the loss of their comrades so that they were able to carry on. He was with his men at many battles, including High Wood, the Aisne and Passchendaele; he received the Military Cross for rescuing an officer and two men under heavy fire on the Somme.

It was Railton's idea to bring home the body of an unidentified fallen comrade from the battlefields to be buried in Westminster Abbey, and on Armistice Day 1920, his flag covered the coffin as the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest with full honours.

Although suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he returned to work as a parish priest in Margate, where he took particular interest in supporting ex-servicemen who had returned home to the aftermath of a terrible war and crippling unemployment.

While the story of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior has been told before, this is the first book to explore David Railton's life and war, and of ‘the padre's flag' he used as an altar cloth and shroud throughout the war. The flag was consecrated a year after the burial of the Unknown Warrior and hangs in Westminster Abbey to this day. This book explains how the idea came out of Railton's traumatic experiences on the Western front, and how he made his idea become reality, drawing on his letters and unpublished papers.


The Flag is a memoir full of hope and inspiration. It offers up a lesson to us all. It's a must-read and, once and for all, ensures the life and times of Padré Railton will never be forgotten. BRITAIN AT WAR BOOK OF THE MONTH NOVEMBER 2018
Britain at War Magazine

This is a well-researched book...The style of writing brings home something of what it was to be an army chaplain amid the battles in France and Flanders.
Methodist Recorder

The book is an attractive addition to the mass of literature about the First World War and about the tasks and frequent heroism of the chaplains.
Church Times

...a worthwhile biography and one well worth reading.
Long Long Trail

We have waited nearly a century for Reverend David Railton's story, and this book does this humble and decent man a great service. It is an extraordinary story.
Guards Magazine

Railton's is a story worth telling and Richard's narrative of wartime events and peacetime social conditions is clear and effective.
Stand to!