The Last Post: A Guide to Military Themed Funerals

Military cemetery

Introduction

Organising a funeral for a loved one, a friend or as a Celebrant/Funeral Arranger on behalf of a family can be at best challenging, but this is made harder when dealing with traditions and protocols which are possibly outside your normal day-to-day experience. This is highlighted when arranging a military tribute for a veteran who served in the Armed Forces. It is right and proper to acknowledge their service and important to ensure that the military aspect of a funeral is conducted in a correct and dignified manner.

Having a Bugler perform the “Last Post” at the funeral is the perfect tribute to honour a veteran’s service and this short presentation is aimed at helping you make those arrangements as easy as possible, guiding you through the various stages of this final farewell.

Helpful information & planning

When making the funeral arrangements, it is always helpful for those involved to know as much as possible about the life of the person who has died and their military background. Whilst many veterans during their lifetime choose to keep their military stories to themselves, try and find out the following details, as it will help ensure that the correct protocols are observed.

Service history

  1. Did they serve with the Royal Navy, Army, or Royal Air Force?
  2. If in the Army what Regiment did they serve with? e.g., Welsh Guards or Royal Engineers etc. Check that you have the correct title as many regiments have similar names e.g., Royal Artillery & Royal Horse Artillery and take note of some often-quirky spellings e.g., Royal Welch Fusiliers if included in the Order of Service.
  3. Did they have any medals awarded? These are often placed on the coffin (often with a beret/service cap and a Service/Regimental flag if available) for the service.

With just these pieces of information alone, there is so much more detailed protocol that can be observed at the service.

Music for the Service

Many families struggle to choose appropriate music for entering (processional) or leaving (recessional) the Church/Crematorium, so it’s good to know that each service and regiment have their own unique “signature tunes”. So, for example, if the deceased is known to have served in the Army with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, they may wish to have a recording of the Regimental Quick March “Men of Harlech” played or a former Royal Navy veteran would have “Hearts of Oak”.

Prayers for the Service

Families may wish to include a prayer such as the Regimental Collect. Each Regiment has its own individual prayer, as do the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. For a former Royal Welsh veteran, this would be as follows:

Regimental Collect of The Royal Welsh

Eternal God, our heavenly Father, who gave your Son Jesus Christ, to die for us and raised him up from the dead; uphold, we pray, the ancient valour of The Royal Welsh, that we may ever follow the path of duty after His example and by his grace be found worthy of your eternal Kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Additional participants

Families might like to ask the local Royal British Legion or Regimental Association whether they are able to send a Standard (Flag) Bearer to the service. The Standard will usually lead the funeral procession into the Church/Crematorium and out following the service. On the sounding of the “Last Post” the Standard will be dipped as a mark of respect and then returned “to the carry” (upright position) on the sounding of “Reveille”.

The Service

  • Traditionally, at most funeral services the “Last Post” is sounded right at the very end of the Service, following the words of Commendation/Committal. The Bugler will stand at the back of the Church/Crematorium (addressing the Coffin) or away to the side of the grave (if for a burial).
  • For a Crematorium Service, there is no official Military “protocol” regarding the closing of the curtains, therefore this is at the discretion of the Celebrant, in consultation with the family. On most occasions it will occur during the sounding of the “Last Post”.

A Typical Order of Service

Following all the eulogies, readings and poems and any reflective music, the final part of the service is the Committal.
If in Church and the funeral is proceeding onwards to a burial or cremation, this part is called the Commendation and the Committal will follow later.

The Committal

Words of Committal

Following the words of Committal, the “Exhortation” is often recited. This is an extract taken from a poem entitled “For the Fallen” by poet Laurence Binyon and are the words heard at Remembrance Day Parades up and down the country every year.

The Exhortation (Optional)

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning We will remember them”.
Response from congregation: “We will remember them”. 

Bugler – “Last Post

The “Last Post” is then sounded.

Silence

Following the “Last Post” a silence of up to 1 minute – (30 seconds is usually an adequate and respectful amount of time) – is observed by all (during which there is no movement from any of the participants).

Bugler – “Reveille

The Bugler will break the silence with a 2nd Bugle Call, “Reveille” (pronounced “re-valley” and often called “Rouse”).

Kohima Epitaph (Optional)

Following “Reveille”, the “Kohima Epitaph” by John Maxwell Edmonds, can be recited if desired.
When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”.

Service is brought to a close

Once Reveille has finished (and if included, the Kohima Epitaph has been spoken) the Celebrant will usually close the Service with a final prayer or words of reflection and the mourners will then process out of the Church/Crematorium accompanied by their chosen piece of recessional music.

Burial service

The format for a burial is usually much shorter and simpler but follows the same sequence as in Church. Once the coffin has been lowered into the ground, the Vicar/Priest will usually recite the words of Committal, and this is then followed by Last Post/Silence/Reveille. The Exhortation and Kohima Epitaph can both also be included if desired (as described above).

I hope that you have found this brief guide to be helpful, but if you require any further information regarding the “Last Post” please contact Andrew on:

T: (07973) 869621 & (01443) 856204
E: andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com
W: www.andrewjonesmusic.com/bugler.html

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