The Play

Rehearsed Reading at the Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon

A new play by the BAFTA and Emmy award winning Christopher Swann. Set in a Military Chapel in Northern France in 1920 the play explores War, those that fought and died and the horrors of those that lived. We are proud to bring the imagining of that secretive night when the Unknown Warrior was chosen, so that we remember them all.

In August 1920 an army chaplain, the Reverend David Railton wrote to the Dean of Westminster Abbey, proposing that an unidentified British soldier from the battlefields in France be buried with due ceremony in the Abbey “amongst the kings” as he put it.
Railton’s idea of feting an “Unknown Warrior” was resisted at first in both government circles and by the King, but growing public opinion and a newspaper campaign, strongly supported by the Dean of Westminster and the then Prime Minister David Lloyd George carried the day.

But this was to be no abstract memorial: the thousands of unidentified war dead were to be immortalized and embodied in the corpse of a single man. It was decided that the body would be chosen from unknown British servicemen disinterred from battle areas including the Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres. Suitable remains were exhumed from the various battlefields and on the night of November 7th 1920 the bodies were taken to the chapel of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise near Arras. They were brought into the chapel on stretchers. The remains were then placed in plain coffins each covered by a Union Flag. Two Officers went into the chapel tasked with making the choice of the Unknown Warrior.

One account says that they were so moved by what confronted them, that they sat silently throughout the night, keeping an unplanned vigil over the bodies. No one knows exactly or ever spoke in detail about what happened that night. “One Night” is inspired by these events but is a work of fiction.

Any resemblance between real people and the characters who spend the night in the Chapel is purely coincidental.