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. Haunted by trench warfare, he created the the poignant memorial to The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.
Date Published :
November 2019
Publisher :
Illustration :
16 pages of photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612004471
Pages : 304
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781612007496
Pages : 320
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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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, 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, he was there in the Abbey as the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest with full honors.

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.

About The Author

Andrew Richards served 22 years with the Household Cavalry. During his last years of service, he graduated from the Open University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Humanities with History and Classical Studies. Since retiring from the Army, he has written both fiction and nonfiction titles. He lives in New York with his wife and children.


Foreword: From the Dean of Westminster

1 Sleepless Nights
2 Early Days in France
3 Vimy Ridge
4 Graveyards
5 Military Cross
6 Winter of Death
7 Private Denis Blakemore
8 Kaiserschlacht
9 Back to Blighty
10 Now or Never
11 The Unknown Warrior
12 Hanging the Flag
13 Going Home

Appendix: Countries that Adopted the Idea of the Unknown Warrior


“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

“...a worthwhile biography and one well worth reading.”

- The Long, Long Trail

“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

“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

“Richards does a remarkable job of bringing both parts of Railton’s story to life, crafting moments where his post-war struggles to help soldiers are as emotionally engaging as his efforts during battle… The Flag is a war story that understands the many, many costs of war and celebrates how the best of humanity cares for us during our worst times.”

- Seattle Book Review

“Poignant, honest, humane and deeply respectful, The Flag is a tribute to the memory of David Railton MC MA who served valiantly as a chaplain during the First World War. Written beautifully by former Household Cavalry officer Andrew Richards, if there’s one book that should be read about the 1914–1918 conflict then this is it... 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 magazine

"The book explains how Railton was moved to create a symbol which every family in the country could identify. That symbol lies inside Westminster Abbey in the shape of the Unknown Soldier. […] Such a legacy is monumental and a fitting tribute to the work of the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department during the war. "

- Gun Mart

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