cen1920_200The Cenotaph

The monument Lutyens designed was initially a wood and plaster construction which he called a Cenotaph, meaning ‘empty tomb’. At its unveiling for the Armistice Day Parade on Saturday July 19th, King George V laid a wreath to commemorate those who had died. Dozens more wreathes were then laid spontaneously by the thousands of people who turned up for the parade.

The Times described the Cenotaph in glowing terms. Lutyens' design was, they wrote, “so grave, severe and beautiful that one might wish it were indeed of stone and permanent”. A letter in the paper that same day suggested that the Cenotaph should be made permanent.

Twenty-three MPs immediately signed a memo which they sent to the First Commissioner of Works, requesting that a permanent memorial be erected on the same site. Sir Edward Lutyens was asked to design a new and permanent Cenotaph. It was to built of white Portland Stone and was to carry the simple inscription The Glorious Dead.

It was also decided that each year, on the Sunday nearest to November 11th, at 11.00am, an Armistice - later Remembrance - Day parade would be held in honour of the dead. And so, on November 11th 1919, the first Remembrance Day parade was held. The King unveiled the new Cenotaph and the first two minute silence was held.