When a member of the armed forces dies in active service, they’re entitled to a military funeral and service burial, or funding towards a private funeral if the family wishes.
Consequently, a military funeral may take many forms, although there are some key ceremonial traditions that are common to many; among these is the draping of the Union Flag across the coffin, which is later folded and presented to the family. The Royal Navy uses the White Ensign – a St George’s Cross with the Union Flag in the top-left corner – instead, with the Union Flag recommended for ex-service personnel.
Another common sight at a military funeral is the ceremonial move, the Reversed Arms, performed during the funeral procession. Service personnel escorting the coffin reverse their weapons, holding them underneath their arms facing backwards. At the command ‘Rest on your arms reversed’, the guns are lowered as a mark of honour and respect.
Military funerals usually end with The Last Post and The Rouse. Another common element is the military or gun salute – a three-volley salute where service personnel fire three shots from their rifle in honour of their companion.
The cost of a service funeral and military burial is met by the Armed Forces. It covers repatriation to the UK, the services of a specialist funeral director, the burial plot in the person’s hometown, and provision for the coffin, hearse and funeral transport. There may also be an allowance for a headstone, engraved with a Service pattern to honour their branch of the military, and its maintenance.
Service veterans are not entitled to a military burial, but may still want military honours at their funeral. The cost of this is met by their family, but there are a number of organizations that provide support for veterans and their families after bereavement, including The Royal British Legion.
If you have been thinking about how you might like your own funeral to be or would like to take out a funeral plan as a way to make the necessary preparations, then contact us or call one of our friendly advisors on 0800 411 8688.