Condolence letters and letters of sympathy for those such as missing believed killed can be a great source of comfort. But they can also cause anguish if one relative gets something that another does not receive and if families compare different letters being sent.
It is current MOD policy that the following are to be written:
- Ministers: a letter of condolence will be sent by the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State to the NOK of all personnel who die in Service. Normally, the Prime Minister will only write to the NOK of those personnel who are killed in action on operations. The Secretary of State will write to NOK of all personnel who die in Service.
- Service Representative: a senior single Service representative will also send a letter of condolence to the NOK of all personnel who die in Service.
- Commanding Officer (CO): in all cases of death the individual’s CO writes to the NOK.
These letters are a minimum and most families will receive letters from many others including friends and colleagues, both official and private.
Very occasionally, particularly with operational deaths, families may receive unpleasant, often anonymous letters with issues over the legitimacy of the military action. While these can be deeply distressing they are also rare. Families should be advised to hand them over to their Visiting Officer or the police.