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Bearing in mind this is a site about music used by the Royal Navy. - I am on occasion asked to advise on the appropriate music, that
can be used to accompany a shipmate across the bar.
The following offers some informal suggestion,
for there is never a wrong way to do these things.
Yet sometimes, you need to know, that you have done the best you can.
In that context, I hope you might find the following useful.
how this page might be improved - are gratefully accepted.
Royal Navy &
Royal Marine Funerals - Follow
Link to Merchant Navy Funerals
There is little
published or recorded
information to be obtained on the subject of RN or RM funerals, but as always the padre is the person to talk to
and he always follows the service book for the respective denomination.
But in general - What I
think you are looking for is the manner in which the traditions of the
service have for centuries been 'copper plated' to that
basic service. -
burials at sea would be conducted according to guidance in the drill book,
with the ships company in No1 uniform (or if the ship was at threat from an enemy,
then they might be in working dress). At a convenient time after the
battle, the funeral party and such members of the ships company
available, would assemble on the foredeck etc. to witness
the committal. The padre or senior officer reads the appropriate words,
leads the prayers and hymn (usually the Naval Hymn). At the point
of committal a ships bugler would play the Last Post, after which the
deceased would be tipped over the side. (Alternatively a group of
Boatswains mates would pipe as the deceased again was tipped into the deep).
Ashore - Church If a
ceremonial party or military band is present. As the mourners
and band approach the church, marching in file the band would play -
of the Forest
Alternatively, if the
naval mourners have assembled in the churchyard as the coffin arrives,
- As the hearse or funeral carriage approaches. The company comes to attention.
The band plays - Flowers of the Forest as the coffin is dismounted from the hearse
and conducted to the church.
As the coffin travels from the gate to the church. The band plays
The Dead March of Saul
Inside the church - as the
coffin is transported to the front. - typical music is played on the
organ, relevant to the wishes of the family, and in keeping with the
deceased and occasion.
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After the ceremony
- It is usual, as a mark of respect, for - the congregation to
leave first and line the route between church door and the burial site
/ hearse at gate,
The principle mourners will follow the coffin as it is carried between the assembled mourners lining the route, -
- A piper might at this stage play a
lament or the bugler play the last post.
- If a Private burial - As the coffin
approaches the hearse, so the Last Post is played and rifles
As the hearse leaves , the congregation
will disperses - The band plays
The Girl I left Behind Me
( but see Private Burial above - It is usual for the last
post to be played and rifles fired in witness, as the coffin is lowered
to its final rest.
Ashore at a crematorium
- If you have a uniformed coffin party, they would carry in the coffin, and then take their 'reserved' seats for the service. On completion they would
then take their place at the front of the hall near the coffin. On caps
Otherwise the normal pattern of Crematorium service is followed.
It is common at civilian organised funerals of ex Naval men, to play the Last Post as the curtains close.
If rifles are to be fired, at this
juncture, a signal is passed to the firing party and they are fired outside.
The Flag -
It this is a formally organised event by the Navy, and the
deceased has died in service his coffin will be decorated with the Union
flag (sometimes referred to as the Union Jack), unless the family requests otherwise
and it should be note that this a traditional practice, exercised for
all members of the Armed Forces and other public services such as the Police and Fire Brigade.
In a funeral is organised by the family.
If the deceased served in the Navy or Marines for some significant
period of his life and he or the family have expressed a desire for the coffin to carry either the Union flag or
the respective ensign, then he is entitled to that honour.
It is usual for a man on active service to be represented, by the Union Flag, and if ex service
it maybe more appropriate to use the appropriate ensign itself. Ex service men are as entitled to the Union flag as serving men.
Any person active in the British Legion / Naval
Association, might wish to take guidance from them in respect to their own standard,
being displayed or carried with the funeral cortege.
Before a coffin is lowered into a grave, the flag is removed and
can be ceremoniously
folded, by the coffin party, into a triangle for presentation to the
Widow or oldest Son. This process needs the skills of at least two coffin beaters, alternatively if the flag has been borrowed, such presentation probably inappropriate.
At a crematorium, it is customary to
remove it and fold it before the curtains are closed.
used as a Coffin Pall
If a national
flag is to be used on a coffin, it should be placed, so
that flag covers the whole coffin, effectively the top left
corner of the flag is over the deceased’s left shoulder and the
opposite end of the head rope is over the deceased right
The flag should be removed before
interment or cremation and folded.
If the flag is to be retained by
the next of kin it can be folded using the Royal Navy’s method
described here, based on a 1:2 flag (138cm x 276cm) with
no fittings (ie. ropes, toggles or clips):
The Union Flag is pulled taut. The
Union Flag is folded in half, lengthways. Keeping the Union Flag
taught it is then folded
in half (lengthways) a second time.
You now have a long rectangle.
You now create triangular folds -
take the bottom right corner and to the opposite edge (i.e. the
bottom edge of the rectangle now lies alongside the left side
take the triangular portion and fold it upwards , left
side rejoins left side and you again have a rectangle .
Create a second triangular fold as above but starting with
the opposite corner, to make another triangle, then fold that up
to a rectangle.
This continues until you reach the head
of the Union Flag. Any remainder is folded down from the top and
tucked away into the folds of the triangular shape
The Union Flag
ready for presentation
the Funeral Service -
NOTE:- It is
to have the Naval Hymn.
Click >> -
<<- Press Me
Another suitable Hymn - The Day
Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended
Naval Hero, Lord Nelson was given a state funeral, although in his
case it was organised by the military and not naval authorities. Only
as an after thought was a forty eight strong naval contingent invited
to escort the coffin car. These men being predominantly drawn from
the crew of HMS Victory.
men can be thought to have exacted their own revenge, for this miserly
representation, for instead of folding up the shot torn ensign that
had adorned the coffin, they tore it into pieces for souvenirs.
Additionally there was also a small
group of Greenwich pensioners lining the church steps and there was
a 100 strong
RM contingent given a part to play.
As the funeral car processed
from the Admiralty to St Paul's cathedral it was accompanied by military
- Dead March in Saul.
Other typical pieces
of music for funerals are -
Rule Britannia, Heart of
Oak or The Evening Hymn as played by the Royal Marines
The above should give you some ideas that
you might adapt for your needs.
provide basic facilities and organise you into 30 minute slots - You
should plan no more than a twenty minute service. Therefore if you need longer -
use a church for the service and the Crematorium for a private committal.
Or book a double session at the Crematorium.
Some Common Procedures at
The funeral services / undertakers,
will often want to place the coffin in the chapel, either before the congregation
files in, or precede the family and congregation into the chapel,
placing the coffin at the front. - Pick suitable music for the organist or CD player to play
during this time.
The minister will either follow the
coffin giving the
usual words or open the service in like manner once everyone has
taken there seat.
In the service it is usual to
have prayers, bible readings
and to have two congregational hymns, (always pick well known
hymns that can be sung with gusto and meaning as everyone likes a
The eulogy or family tribute
is generally spoken between the hymns, the minister will guide you
in this process.
If you choose to use
a particular piece of music, that had relevance to the deceased, for
example he wrote it etc. Please ensure you
give reference to it in the tribute speeches or on the service sheet,
so the congregation can be part of that associaton.
After the second hymn
there are further prayers before the minister closes the curtains
with the Prayer of Committal.
You can if you have
time request the local Naval establishment to provide a bugler who
will play the last post for you - or Some British Legion units
can also offer this service.
Alternatively as the curtain's
close you can play a recording Heart of Oak or Sunset
or another appropriate item. (Note the Royal Marines Band have some
excellent recordings - Please look at the Web. If the Crematorium have
video projection facilities and many do, play Sunset /
Evening Hymn video with the Ensign be lowered
A short medley of sea
music could be played as the mourners leave.
If you decide to play
any copyright recordings it is essential to acknowledge these in the
A possible order of Service in
Opening Music - Trumpet Concerto
Welcome & Opening Prayers.
Hymn - Eternal Father
(The Naval Hymn) Tune - Melitia - Please
carefully select your verses
Bible Reading - John
Short Address by Minister
Prayers including the Lords
Hymn - (The Evening Hymn
if not used later or
one of relevance to the deceased
or a good alternative is Abide with Me).
Reading or Poem
Prayers of Commendation,
(Last Post on Bugle)
could be played here
- Closing Music - Ashokan Farewell -
Flowers of the Forest - The Girl I left Behind Me.
With thanks to the family of Gerald Rodney
Hutson (1934-2016) - who served in the FAA - for the above
------ o 0 O 0 o ------
Officially this Bugle Call is only played
at sea for a funeral. Ashore at memorials and funerals.
It also forms a special part of the Royal
Marines Sunset display.
As You Depart
Barry E. Scott ( 1948 - ) for Michael 2007
Though my heart lays
heavy in sorrow, as you depart from here.
May we take just a very brief moment, to picture the memories we shared,
And as we hold our breath together,
let us sip from that treasure of
For each sip, that we take will feed me and I hope serve as your guide and your light.
Though my heart lays
heavy in sorrow, as you depart from here.
Let us pause together for a while, so you know how deeply I cared,
For though my eyes now weep, in sadness,
and my arms
ache; to reach out and
Take strength, my heart, 'tis not good bye or farewell, but
a kiss - Goodnight!
Crossing the Bar
Alfred, Lord Tennyson ~ 1809 to 1892
Sunset and evening star, and one clear
call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep, too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep, turns again - home.
Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place, the flood may bear me
I hope to see my Pilot face to face, when I have crossed the bar.
Just A Common Sailor
Can anyone help with this tune - please
He was getting old and paunchy, and his hair was falling fast,
He sat around the table telling stories of the past,
Of a war that he had fought in, and the deeds that he had done,
Of his exploits with his oppo’s, they were heroes every one.
And tho’ sometimes to his children his tales became a joke,
His wife she listened carefully, for she knew of what he spoke.
But we will hear those tales no longer for He has passed away,
And the worlds a little poorer for a sailor died today,
He’ll not be mourned by many, perhaps by his children and his wife,
For he lived a quiet , ordinary, uneventful life.
Who worked to raise his family, till to old to earn his pay,
No the world won’t know his passing, tho’ a sailor died today.
When politicians leave this earth their bodies lie in state
And thousands note their passing and always say that they’re great.
The papers tell their histories from the time when they were young,
But the passing of our old sailors go unnoticed, go unsung.
Yes it’s too easy to ignore them, their brave hour too long ago,
Yes its too easy to laugh at them, when they recall the friends they know.
But why fete the politician who breaks promises every day,
And not those who saved their country in their ordinary way.
He was just a common sailor , and his ranks are growing thin,
Who won for us the freedom, in that terror and that din,
When they stood so firm in battle, each a hero in his way,
No the world won’t know his passing, tho’ a sailor died today.
several occasions I have been asked to assist with music gor a Merchant
and as since World War One the bravery and fortitude of those men have
been nationally recognised, whilst there is a close connection now
between the two services, with both often serving together. I feel
it appropriate to add what I am able.
Like the Royal Navy, the merchant
man has a
long tradition of singing, in the foc'sle and ashore when
in groups and of course no more apparent that in the exhibition of its
Work Shanties. Of this tradition, perhaps one song has come to be representative
of the Merchant Fleet and that is Maggie May.
Again little is recorded, excepting that at sea, a man is shrouded in
his hammock, and with a dry tear wiped from the eye, he is slipped over
the side with the appropriate words.
Today, because of the recognition earned in the two Word Wars, national
memorial services, always include representation of the Merchant Marine
and no cenotaph is complete, unless at the appropriate times, it wears
a wreath honouring the lost of that service. No where is this more
than at the British Legion Festival of Remembrance. Of course in days
gone by, that service, unlike the more regimented cousin, had no tradition
in ceremonial parade, for marching or standing in file and therefore
the legion, in its search to locate an appropriate marching song, chose
what is perhaps the most significant of all tunes.
All the Nice Girls Love A Sailor
One that for generations now has been used
to accompany a parade of Merchant Men, whether that be to church, or
on other ceremonial situations like Remembrance Sunday. For decades that
tune, has also been used to precede a coffin into a church.
The following is sensitively arranged from
the classic tune of Maggie May, has been well received for such occasions.
It is written and arranged by Martyn Hancock (http://www.martynhancock.com/
) an ex Royal Marine Bandsman, it is copyright to him., but can
be played for personal use.
Strong To Save
Like the Senior service
this is a requisite for all seafaring men. The version used for the
Merchant Marine is the four verses in the standard hymn book. To date
there is no middle verse known in tradition for the Merchant Marine
Also see the RN Page By clicking this LINK
or Leaving the Church
music can be either Flowers of the Forest or The
Girl I left Behind Me as noted above