Letter to an unknown soldier

Published by: Sandy H on 6th Aug 2017 | View all blogs by Sandy H

On platform One of Paddington station in London stands a war memorial featuring a life-size bronze statue of a soldier.  He is reading a letter.  No-one knows who the letter is from, or what message it contains.  To mark the centenary of the First World War, authors Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger invited people from around the world to step aside from the more official ceremonies of commemoration and imagine themselves sitting down and writing that letter.


People responded in their thousands.

Grandmothers and grandfathers, serving members of the armed forces, midwives, students, prisoners, children and even the Prime Minister wrote to the soldier.

Letters arrived from all over the country and eventually from all over the world.

Many well known writers, poets and personalities contributed.


The response to this project was extrordinary.  By the end of it's second week nearly ten thousand people had written to the soldier, and by the projects close, 21,439 had written.

The website opend on the 28th August 2014, the centenary of the moment Prime Minister Asquith announced to the House of Commons that Britain had joined the First World War.

As the letters arrived, they were published on the website and made available for everyone to read.  A selection of the letters has also been published as a book.


Letter to an unknown soldier will be archived until 2018.  After that, all of the letters will be archived in the British Library where they will remain permanently accessible online, providing a snapshot of what people in this country and across the world were thinking and feeling about the centenary of WW1.

                                     One of the letters in the book by ( anonymous )


Letter to my mssing son

I see you walking boldly into the early morning sun, head held high, long easy strides, a half smile on your face, looking towards the horizon.

With hope and an open heart you set out to save the world.

And then you disappeared..........

Where did you walk to my beloved son?

The sun rises every day, and still you are missing.

A trap has been perfectly set.

The loss is overwhelming, but I will never give up.

Though my eyes grow dimmed with the tears shed,  I will

walk every path until I can no longer walk.

Oftentimes, in a crowd, my heart quickens.  I catch a

glimps of a shadow, the turn of a head, the sound of a long-

lost voice, of music you played.

I thought I might die of grief 'you think you cannot keep

breathing..... and so that you may do it, God takes out your heart of flesh, and gives you a heart od stone.'

The door is wide open, you are a brave bold son, it is over, walk home.

Your ever-loving






  • LJ E
    by LJ E 11 months ago
    Very touching.....
  • Bill W
    by Bill W 11 months ago
    Millions of eyes shed rivers of tears Sandy, thank you for this, one of so many very sad stories.
  • Jackie H
    by Jackie H 11 months ago
    Oh I walked past platform 1 on Paddington Station many times en-route to my " Travellers Fare " bar-canteen job 40 years ago, must have passed this many times without giving it a second thought...

    " For employees of the Great Western Railway who gave their lives during the First World War..."
    Unveiled 11 November 1922

  • Mary B
    by Mary B 11 months ago
    I did not know of this amazing project until Sandy told me about it. I have found the website and read some of the letters, and like the one above, they are so moving. Just a small correction on the dates though - Britain declared war on the 4th August 1914. I know this because my grandfather left home on the 6th August and by the 28th August he was in France on his way to join his regiment - the Royal Sussex. I don't even know if his mother was still alive - if so she might have written a letter just like this one. I have so much family research still to do. I wonder if my father ever wrote him a letter...... not at the age of six, but perhaps it would have helped him in later life if he had...... Thank you so much for sharing this blog and information with us Sandy.......
  • josee  a
    by josee a 10 months ago
    Reading this has brought tears to my eyes.
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