Various stories circulate about what happened and how many bodies there were - from three to six - as well as how the selection was made. It was clearly an event that lent itself to rumour and embroidery - digging up rotted corpses is, after all, the stuff of horror stories. The version below seemed the most likely.
On instructions from London, Brigadier-General L.J. Wyatt gave orders that four unidentified bodies of British soldiers be disinterred, one from each of the main battle areas: Ypres, the Somme, Arras and the Aisne and brought to St Poll near Arras. They were brought in on the night of 7th November 1920 and placed in the hut that served as the chapel for the St. Pol garrison. The parties that brought the remains returned immediately to their respective areas so they had no opportunity of discovering which body had been chosen. The bodies were checked to make sure that they were British and at midnight, Wyatt accompanied by a senior member of his staff, entered the chapel and selected one of the bodies that lay on stretchers covered by Union Jacks, which was then placed in a temporary coffin sent out from England. The other bodies were taken out and buried in a nearby shell hole on the road to Albert.
The body was returned to Britain in a great coffin made of oak from a tree in Hampton Court Palace. Placed on top was a crusader's sword from the Tower of London collection. It arrived in Dover after a great military send off in France from where it travelled to London by ‘special’ train and spent the night in a temporary chapel in Victoria station.