Saturday, October 11, 2008

Symbolism at Military Funerals

There is some remarkable symbolism attached to service funerals. You may have seen this on film, television or even experienced it at a service.This is only a small brief explanation of some of the more notable features of funerals.

Reverse Arms (Rifles - when the rifle is placed under the left arm pit on an angle with the butt of the rifle level with the left eye). The reverse arms are an acknowledgment of the shame of killing and was first used at the funeral of the Duke of Marlborough in 1722. Death puts the rifle to shame and the reversal of the barrel is a fitting sign of reverence.

The National Flag on the Casket. In token that the person died in the service of his country and that the nation takes the responsibility for what it ordered him or her to do.The Australia Flag is the appropriate flag for covering coffins of all Navy, Army and Air Force personnel.

The Three Volleys (The firing of blank rounds/bullets). These have been traced back as far as the funeral of Sir Phillip Sydney as being fired in the name of the Holy Trinity. An old superstition has it that the doors of men's hearts stand ajar at such a time and the volleys are fired into the air to ward off imaginary devils/evil spirits. The firing of volleys appeared in orders of 1573 where it was stated that matlocks (type of musket/rifle) would be fired over the graves.

The Last Post (Bugle Call). This call is well remembered during ANZAC and Armistice Days. It is also used in the military as the closing of the day. This call is the "Junc Dimittus" of the dead soldier, sailor or airman. The significance of the high ascending note with which it ends is one of hope and expectancy. It is the last bugle call, but it gives promise of reveille which ultimately the Archangel Gabriel will blow.

Most of this information can be found through the Australian War Memorial. Military Customs and Traditions were part of a Warrant Officers Class Two's Course in my day. I believe it's optional reading if the individual is interested these days.

Tea Gardens Bill


Mike Testa said...

Really informative post...thanks for sharing your expertise.


radical royalist said...

I could learn something new. Thank you very much.