The King’s Pilgrimage By Sir Frank Fox
An Account of King George V’s Visit to the War Graves in Belgium and France in 1922
In May 1922, King George V took a very small party to the graves of First World War soldiers buried in France and Belgium in the cemeteries and memorials being constructed at the time by the Imperial War Graves Commission. The trip was documented by Australian journalist and soldier Sir Frank Fox and commemorated by Rudyard Kipling in a poem written specifically for the occasion. Despite its lack of fanfare, or perhaps due to its solemn and understated nature, the British monarch’s visit to the war cemeteries was an important moment in the history of First World War commemoration. Since George V onwards, members of the Royal Family have visited sites throughout the world to pay homage to the fallen.
This journey began a wider pilgrimage movement that saw tens of thousands of bereaved relatives from the United Kingdom and the Empire visit the battlefields of the Great War in the years that followed the Armistice.
Kipling’s poem prefaces the book with lines and stanzas from the poem and the speech given by George V being used as epigraphs for the chapters describing the King s journey, as detailed by Sir Frank Fox. Illustrated with 61 black-and-white unposed and evocative photographs of the visits, as well as a signed letter from the King, telegrams and a letter of thanks from George V on his return home, it is a poignant record of an important moment to these moving memorials after four years of death and destruction.
Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes, the great-grandson of Sir Frank Fox and a veteran of the First Gulf War himself, contributes a new introduction reflecting on the importance of this act of understated remembrance and its legacy.
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About the Author: Sir Frank Fox (1874-1960) was an Australian born Journalist, Soldier, Author and Campaigner who lived in Britain from 1909. Having warned on the public platform and in the press of an impending war in Europe he was appointed to the Morning Post and was sent as their War correspondent to the Balkan wars.
He was then attached to the Belgian Army and recorded the German invasion in 1914. Motivated by the atrocities he witnessed to the civilian population there, he was commissioned at the age of 41 into the British Army. Fox was appointed O.B.E. (Military) and was Mentioned in Despatches. In 1926 he was Knighted by King George V.
He was a prolific author writing over 33 books, 5 of which books relating to World War One, including the recently republished “The Agony of Belgium” and ”GHQ Montreuil-sur-Mer”.
Introduction by Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes, Great-Grandson and Literary Executor of Sir Frank Fox.
It was the wish of King George V to honour the dead of the Great War by visiting the Military cemeteries in Belgium and France as soon as this were practically possible.
He determined that the Visit should be simple and dignified, with the minimum of formality and trappings.
Thus it was, following the first State Visit to Belgium in 1922, that he assembled a small but distinguished party to accompany him: Field Marshal the Earl Haig, The Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Ponsonby, Major General Sir Fabian Ware, Colonel Clive Wigram and Major Reginald Seymour.
They were joined by Queen Mary, Lady Haig (her Lady-in-Waiting) and Admiral of the Fleet the Earl Beatty, towards the end of the itinerary.
Frank Fox, War Correspondent for the Morning Post at the time of the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, had subsequently been commissioned as a combatant and was seriously wounded on the Somme.
After convalescence, during which he worked for MI7, he joined Haig’s GHQ in Montreuil-sur-Mer. His name probably came to the fore to write this narrative of the King’s Pilgrimage, through his association with Ware on the Morning Post, before the latter championed the formation of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
The result is this book, full of evocative and unposed photographs, preceded by Rudyard Kipling’s verse.
“Marks the full stop to the Great War. It is a very special book”
Field Marshal the Lord Bramall
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