Funerals for peace?

Charles 7 Comments

Posted by Vale

Why don’t we want to fight any more? After centuries of sending out the gunboats, the bombers or the troopships, with a wave, a cheery heart and perhaps a chorus of ‘Goodbyee’ suddenly we are not so keen. Britain’s reputation is at stake. Has the British bulldog turned into a lapdog?

The Ministry of Defence is so worried that they have commissioned a study. What can they do to make the idea of going to war more appealing?

One of the answers, as ever, is by making sure we are ignorant of the consequences and for the first time it puts fds in the firing line.

The Guardian reports that the MoD had considered a number of steps, including reducing:

“the profile of the repatriation ceremonies” – an apparent reference to the processions of hearses carrying coffins draped in the union flag that were driven through towns near RAF bases where bodies were brought back.

For four years up to 2011, 345 servicemen killed in action were brought back to RAF Lyneham and driven through Royal Wootton Bassett, in Wiltshire, in front of crowds of mourners. Since then, bodies have been repatriated via RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, with hearses driven through nearby Carterton.

The MoD’s suggestion received a scathing reaction from some families of dead military personnel. Deborah Allbutt, whose husband Stephen was killed in a friendly fire incident in Iraq in 2003, described the proposals for repatriation ceremonies as “brushing the deaths under the carpet”.

What do you think? Should these ceremonies go – for the greater good of course?

You can read the full article here.


  1. Charles

    Whatever my opinion of the actual wars involved here (about which it would, perhaps, be best to draw a veil) I think that this country has an atrocious record in terms of how it deals with those who routinely risk or lose their lives in its service. Soldiers, firemen, emergency rescuers, Gurkhas and so on.

    Those who have died should be seen, witnessed and honoured.

    I liked the funeral processions at Wootton Bassett, not for the jingoism but because they allowed us to stand with the family and show respect and gratitude. I think this is shameful.

  2. Charles

    Brits have always been ambivalent towards military people and veered between celebrating them and treating them unworthily. Rudyard Kipling wrote: For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!” / But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;” and “Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep / Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;” Arguably, the military has never enjoyed the sort of esteem it enjoys today — yet the government sent soldiers to war in Iraq and Afghanistan inadequately equipped.

    It’s not surprising that the deaths of soldiers are received differently by people according to their values and beliefs. The military processions through Wootton Bassett were a focus for the full range of responses. The absence of protesting pacifists was remarkable.

    There is an argument that the transportation of the dead soldiers to the coroner should not have been contracted to civilians, that they should have been conveyed under the auspices of their employer in military vehicles, and that the style of the processions – paged hearses as if for a funeral – was all wrong.

    Most valuably, perhaps, the parades performed a useful audit function by allowing the nation to count the cost and assess the benefit. It is in the nature of soldiering and warfare that some people get killed. Unremarkable as that is given the degree of risk, which soldiers embrace, the parades pressed that point home at the same time as allowing people to pay their respects.

    I don’t think it makes any difference what anyone thinks of these parades. They should be held. War is not a video game.

  3. Charles

    “…making sure we are ignorant of the consequences” seems to me to be the key phrase here. People think war is sexy, until their own son drops dead at their feet with his face blown off.

    And yes, Charles, what are the private providers doing here, with their inappropriately chosen vehicles, staff and alll?

  4. Charles

    In Iraq, we won the war but not the peace. No appetite for war in Syria is because we know regime change would not solve anything, with rebel Islamic fundamentalists taking over rather than democrats. We no longer believe western involvement is deemed just and beneficial in the long term. But I think the public is happy to honour dead soldiers in the streets, and angered by Islamic protests against processions just as Americans are disgusted by Westboro Baptist protests at military funerals.

  5. Charles

    I’m going to disagree with Jonathan and (possibly, its hard to tell πŸ™‚ with Charles, here. I do think civilians should be involved with these funerals (in the form of FDs) Yes, the military should honour their own dead…usually better than they do. But the involvement of civilian FD companies allows the wider, non-military society to pay their respects. In some sense, the ‘trapperies’ of a ‘traditional’ funeral are even more appropriate here than otherwise since these funerals do not just concern the grieving family but are also, to some extent, a public event. There is a level on which the FD represents ‘us’…..hmm, perhaps there’s an article in that!!! I should, perhaps, confess at this point that I come from a military family.
    I shall now retire behind the parapet and await the first round πŸ™‚


  6. Charles

    Well I’m going to disagree back! These aren’t funerals, Jennifer, they’re trips to the coroner. I don’t see any reason why they should not be semi-ceremonial trips — but I have a feeling that the time to hand over to the civvies is when the coroner releases them to their families. The Army should see it through as far as the coroner.

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