Repatriation of the Fallen

Why and Should we repatriate the dead?

  • Should we bring back our dead?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Should we bury them in the countries where they fall?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Is it because the fallen must be near their families?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Is it financially easier for them to looked after at home?

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    1

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#1
Saladin brought up an idea in another thread:

http://www.arrse.co.uk/Forums/viewtopic/p=3020001.html#3020001

repeated here:

saladin said:
....is it something with a bit more respect - "There is a corner which is forever England", " The Devons held this trench, they hold it still" etc. Are we piling on extra grief by bringing back bodies to the UK - long drawn out coroners courts, funerals etc. Our grandparents got by on a telegram and a letter from the platoon commander " shot through the head, he would have felt nothing" instead of the truth of it all.

Where would you draw the line ? Diving on WW2 wrecks ? Excavating Ypres Trenches ? Should we sweep Maiwand for british bones and have a bit of a ceremony while we are "local " ? How much respect should we give the dead and for how long - Enough old cemetaries have been dug up to make way for new office blocks etc. Do the dead of Waterloo or Towton deserve the same as some bloke from 1917 we can half identify by his buttons ?

Personally I think that we are making a rod for our own backs with repatriation. What happens if we ever get into a mass casualties situation ?
That said I think all human remains deserve some respect. Ancient bodies found as a by-product of archeology or building work should be reburied in a current cemetary with a bit of dignity.

Interesting idea there Saladin, when did we really start repatriating the dead (not until post WW2 certainly, and why what re the reasons: Tim Collins in Rules of Engagement notes that british War Graves in Iraq were still well cared for even after the most recent invasion.

Is it because the fallen must be near their families?
Is it fear their graves will be desecrated (evidence of or against please)?
Is it financially easier for them to looked after at home? (Imperial War Graves Commission doesn't have to support caretakers and bones in dusty or humid places???)
Should we bring back our dead?
Should we bury them where they fall?
 
#3
rampant said:
Interesting idea there Saladin, when did we really start repatriating the dead (not until post WW2 certainly, and why what re the reasons....
The Falkland Islands would be more accurate than WWII.

In one way it is exactly the opposite. Up until WWI Officers bodies were traditionally repatriated for family burial wherever possible. WWI was one of the first wars where Officers were interred alongside their troops and there was one hell of a stink about it.

Lutyens was quite heavily involved in this, when acting as Architect for what would become The War Graves Commission. There is quite a lot of detail in this article:


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/...Well-miss-our-corners-of-a-foreign-field.html

We'll miss our corners of a foreign field


The delay in holding inquests on British servicemen killed in Iraq or Afghanistan is entirely unprecedented, brought about by the repatriation of remains to this country.

The practice began during the Falklands and came about because one family insisted on a repatriation. Until then the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had successfully established the principle that British war dead should be buried and commemorated as near the spot where they died as possible. No inquests were held because the cause of death was evident.

There had been a demand for repatriation and for private commemoration during the First World War, but Fabian Ware, the first director of War Graves, opposed both practices. He was influenced by the enormous number of war deaths - but also by what he discovered of personal and family sentiment.

Repatriation was, for financial reasons, open only to richer families, and several tried to bring the bodies of dead sons or husbands home. Inquiry revealed, however, that officers, whose families were most likely to demand repatriation, expressed a strong desire to be buried with their men. Chaplains reported a mood of "the fellowship of death" among fighting soldiers, which pervaded all ranks.

Thus grew up the principles on which the War Graves Commission policy was founded. It laid down that those who died together should be buried together - though, out of respect for soldierly sacrifice, each casualty should be individually commemorated, in a separate grave or by a separate inscription on a joint memorial if burial were not possible.

Ware also stipulated that there should be a standard headstone. He further stipulated that the inscription on the headstone should reveal only name, service number, age at death, date and place of death, regimental badge and an appropriate religious symbol - a cross, Star of David or Muslim device. At the bottom of the headstone, space was left for the family to place a short personal inscription, if desired.

The result, as the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the commission's cemeteries well know, is extraordinarily dignified and moving. Large or small, the cemeteries perfectly fulfil their purpose to commemorate, honour and console. A glance in the visitors' book testifies to the success of the commission's work. It is not only Britons who write their phrases of appreciation. So powerful is the atmosphere of the war cemeteries that words of respect are written even by Germans in the war cemeteries of Germany, where the dead of bomber command's strategic bombing campaign are interred.

The success of the cemeteries is thanks to the employment of three key figures from Britain's cultural life at the beginning of the 20th century: the architect Edwin Lutyens, his gardening collaborator Gertrude Jekyll, and the poet Rudyard Kipling, himself a bereaved parent of the First World War. Lutyens supplied the stripped-down classical designs of gateways, walls and garden buildings. Jekyll chose the distinctive plants: roses, ivies and creepers. Kipling wrote the words: "A soldier of the Great War known unto God", "Their name liveth forever more" and the cunningly sharp indication of a missing body: "Believed to be buried in this cemetery".

Design is not the only ingredient of the cemeteries' potent aura. Quite as important is the daily work of the commission's gardeners. The cemeteries were originally laid out and planted by British gardeners, trained at Kew, who then settled in the vicinity of their work in France and Belgium. As might have been expected, these exiles often married local girls, thus setting up what have become gardening dynasties. Their descendants, now sometimes in the fourth generation, speak a distinctive form of "Commission English", perfectly fluent but in an accent that is neither quite English nor quite local.

In Egypt, Burma and India, commission gardening jobs, valued because of the regular pay and pensions they attract, have become virtually hereditary. The gardeners display extraordinary loyalty, as was recently discovered by British troops in Baghdad, where the head gardener, though unpaid for many years, had defended the Great War cemetery against vandalism and kept it as tidy as possible.

The almost autonomous and self-governing status of the war cemeteries abroad is likely to diminish as families now opt to repatriate the remains of servicemen killed overseas. The practice, authorised by Margaret Thatcher, is likely to become universal, as it is in America, because of the growing desecration of foreign soldiers' graves in the new battlegrounds of the "war on terror".

That is entirely understandable. Something will be lost, however, from British culture in the process. The overseas cemeteries are islands of something distinctively British in the countries where they exist. They plant replicas of British country churchyards in foreign climes and reproduce the style of British cottage gardening in places far from home. The French call the lawns which surround the graves "English grass". No British visitor easily stifles the catch in the throat that entering a commission cemetery provokes. Brooke's "corner of some foreign field that is forever England" palpably exists inside the trim stone walls that the Commonwealth maintains in places as far apart as Crete, Zimbabwe, the former Soviet Union and Central America.

The legal need to hold inquests over the remains of anyone brought into a coroner's district explains why families are now understandably distressed by delays that formerly never arose.

Older generations will recall that, before repatriation became the norm, families almost without exception accepted the commission's custody of their dead and were comforted and consoled by the beauty the commission created. It may be said that the tragedy of the two world wars was genuinely alleviated by the building and conservation of the cemeteries.

Indeed, the only country where our war graves are not models of commemoration and solicitude is our own, where war graves, often isolated in neglected municipal cemeteries, become the targets for the mindless vandalism of youths too ignorant and uncaring to understand why the War Graves Commission exists. The commission is now encouraging local schools to adopt war graves in their neighbourhoods, a policy that is meeting with appreciable success.
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#4
Excellent article Grem, cheers: I feet that the dead should be interred nearest where they fall. Sentimental, yes, indeed there must be few countries on this planet that does not have a British soldier cradled in the bossom of its earth. I have visited many in the M/E, Africa, Europe and South Am.

The points raised in your post are those I can empathise with: an equality in death. An equality in service, not one subject to the high emotion of grief and loss, but one of fellowship.
 
#5
If I get snotted on my next afghan tour, I dont want to left in the dump. I want to come home , so my family can pop down to visit .
 
#6
rampant said:
... when did we really start repatriating the dead?
Only very recently. In fact, prior to the Boer War, the corpses of the fallen were treated with little, if any respect whatsoever - other than the odd memorial either in situ or back home. Those that were not simply left to rot and bleach in the sun where they fell were shovelled in to hastily-dug mass graves. The fallout of battle in the mid-19th Century and before makes for some enlightening reading, with skeletons being exhumed (if buried) and crushed for fertiliser or harvested for their teeth!
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
rampant said:
Tim Collins in Rules of Engagement notes that british War Graves in Iraq were still well cared for even after the most recent invasion.
IIRC the Germans maintained the cemteries in France during their Hols there in the 40's
I believe most of the damage was done as we and the Septics fought our way past them so our grandads could get a free battlefield tour of where their dads had been

Although I must cofess to feeling Wooton Basset is getting a bit mawkish now
It seems every greif whore is starting to make their way there to get hysterical on soneones behalf

Did anyone see the Chubb u like the other night on the news
"I've now lost 29 friend and hero's in Afghanistan and I like to get here early to get a good spot"
It was about 09:00 the place was desrted but she was packed up for day trip
 
#8
When the Hog Roast van starts turning up then it's time to have a word.
 
#9
How can you vote for/against a list of questions? Mad!!!!!!!

Should we bring back our dead?

Should we bury them in the countries where they fall?

Is it because the fallen must be near their families?

Is it fear their graves will be desecrated?

Is it financially easier for them to looked after at home?




View Results
 
#10
I agree with the comment about Wooton Bassett - it used to be an almost private dignified affair, but it seems to be the griefgroupies version of second man on the balcony. "Oh, I 've come to them all to show they're appreciated". It's less of an appreciation, and more of a thing about showing appreciation, very "Look at me, I care considerably more than you". It's a shame that soldiers aren't appreciated when they're alive, but then it's just a reinforcement of Rudyard Kipling and "Tommy".
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#11
Thankfully this is a decision I will never have to actually make. However I feel that in today's way of life the bodies should be flown home. In years gone by it would have taken months to get bodies home and therefore not practical and too expensive. Today it is relatively simple to bring the fallen back to UK.

What really needs to change is the Coroner's Court. These people have died on active service, why should there be any Coroner's Court? The bodies should be flown home and released to families, with as much help and support as is required, immediately.
 
#12
Rampant, your poll is sh1t.

personally, I wouldn't want to be left in the ******** of the world so I think the dead should be brought home.

However, aside from families there should be a law that prevents freaks with self esteem issues from turning up to repats. Weirdo's.
 
#13
Auld-Yin said:
What really needs to change is the Coroner's Court. These people have died on active service, why should there be any Coroner's Court? The bodies should be flown home and released to families, with as much help and support as is required, immediately.
There are a number of very good reasons why HM Coroner holds inquests into combat deaths, not least to ensure a duty of care of our employer. Without it, the MOD could send us on Ops with nothing but a bow and arrow in the name of cost cutting.
 
#14
Auld-Yin said:
What really needs to change is the Coroner's Court. These people have died on active service, why should there be any Coroner's Court? The bodies should be flown home and released to families, with as much help and support as is required, immediately.
A-Y, if it is the families you are concerned about, some of them at least would strongly disagree with you on that.

You also seem to imply that the coroner's involvement delays the release of the remains to families. Any delay due to that cause is insignificant in relation to the repatriation process as a whole.
 
#15
tally_target said:
If I get snotted on my next afghan tour, I dont want to left in the dump. I want to come home , so my family can pop down to visit .
Why? When your dead your just meat ffs!
 
#16
llech said:
tally_target said:
If I get snotted on my next afghan tour, I dont want to left in the dump. I want to come home , so my family can pop down to visit .
Why? When your dead your just meat ffs!
Hmmm. It must be a real strain being so tough and emotionless all the time. However, if it were you who died, I should imagine your family would like a place to go and mourn, grieve, or whatever takes their fancy, rather than visit a war memorial in the town centre with your name carved on it. However, I'm often wrong, and I probably am in this case.
 
#18
Fallschirmjager said:
Well, my ashes will be spread on Senlac Hill. That's all I ask.
As good a place as any, and unlikely to be turned into a Barrat Homes Estate. I want to be scattered in the River Meon, near Titchfield Abbey.
 
#19
When I die don't bury me
cause then I must be free
cremate my body with a grin
throw my ashes to the wind
 
#20
I don't care, You can throw me in landfill after I'm dead.

But those I leave behind might think differently*. And that's what this is all about, when you come down to it.

Although I quite like the thought of a Viking burial on a burning longship. In the local swimming pool!


(*Actually they probably couldn't be arsed to drive to the corporation tip and will probably just fly-tip me on the local common. Or just put me in a Shirley Bassey and leave me out for the binmen.)
 

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