The day that Ted helped Unknown Warrior to his rest

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Imagine being 17 years old and finding out you would be helping to guide one of the country’s war heroes to his final resting place at Westminster Abbey.

While doubtless an honour, the idea must have been terrifying.

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That’s exactly what happened to Ted Yarwood in 1920, when he was picked to be part of a six-strong group who escorted the coffin of the Unknown Warrior to the Abbey from Victoria Station.

Ted, who lived with his wife, Minnie, in Ferroners, Furnace Green, shared his story with the Crawley Observer in 1981, when he was 78 years old.

He said: “The whole route was lined with thousands and thousands of people.

“The thing I remember most was the sobbing. There was complete silence except for the slow beat of the drum and the sobbing.”

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As his title suggests, no one knows who the Unknown Warrior was. He was one of four bodies disinterred from the battlefields of the Aisne, the Somme, Arras and Ypres and taken to St Pol on November 7 1920.

Brigadier General LJ Wyatt, who was rumoured to have been blindfolded, selected one of the bodies, and, after being transported to Boulogne, it was taken by HMS Verdun to Dover and then by train to Victoria. The next day, Ted and his five comrades carried out their honoured duty.

Ted’s story came to light when he saw a newsreel of the event and the memories all came flooding back.

He contacted the Observer after reading about the death of Regimental Sergeant Major Ronald Brittain, who was credited with having the loudest voice in the army.

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Ted begged to differ, recalling one of his own drill sergeants when he was serving with the Scots Guards.

He said: “On a good day, you could hear Sergeant Harry Holden from Chelsea Barracks to Picadilly Circus. That was a voice!”

It’s not known if Ted was an old Crawley boy or if he was one of the new town pioneers.

If he was the former, he would no doubt have remembered the forge, in Balcombe Road, Pound Hill.

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Our two pictures (below right) were taken in the 1930s and 1981. While the building hadn’t changed a bit, the staff numbers certainly had as the traditional role of village blacksmith breathed its final breaths.

In the 1930s, the team included Freddie Franks, who is pictured third from the left, and his employer Doug Steel, who is pictured on the left of the picture.

By 1981, Freddie’s grandson John was running the business, with the help of John Denton.

The forge opened in 1827 and John Franks took it over in 1969 after it had been closed for 22 years.

Over at Southgate Middle School, 1981 was the year a grinning group of youngsters passed their cycling proficiency tests.

Pictured with Crawley Mayor Bill Buck are: Nathan Elvery, 12, of Tilgate, Yvonne Howard, 10, of Bewbush, Caroline Owen, 10, of Southgate, and Tony Minahane, 11, of Bewbush.

Our final picture shows members of the Quakers Peace Caravan taking part in a ‘Ban The Bomb’ protest in Queens Square.

The group put on a play in the square depicting the escalation of a fight from ‘sabres at dawn’ to a nuclear holocaust.

Meanwhile, members of the National Front and Socialist Workers Party had also set out their stalls in the square and were reported to have spent the day vying “for the best newspaper selling points”.

This included one National Front member ripping up an anti-Nazi League poster being displayed by the Socialists.

Say what you will about politics in Crawley, it has never been boring.

To view the Armistice Day newsreel, log on to www.britishpathe.com/video/armistice-day-1920-aka-armistice-day-in-london .

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