When a Service person (including Reserve forces when on duty and Foreign and Commonwealth (F&C) personnel) dies on duty, it is MOD policy to arrange a funeral at public expense, or to provide funding towards the cost of a private funeral dependent upon the wishes of the Next of Kin.
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For a natural death, there is normally no difference from any death in civilian life. However, for the death that happens in operational circumstances and / or in a theatre of war, there may be other complicating factors.
The NOK and bereaved family has the right to view the body after repatriation should they wish. However, it is important that they are given informed advice as to the state of the body if there is any chance that it will cause unnecessary distress. This advice can come from the Coroner, the MOD Contractor who is tasked with accepting the body from the point of entry to UK , or the undertaker.
In accidents resulting in multiple deaths it may take some time for DNA evidence to be gathered and identities confirmed. In some cases there is no body and this poses its own particular problems with acceptance, especially when the death happened away from home .
All deaths must be formally registered in order to obtain a Death Certificate. Deaths in the UK must be registered by the Registrar of the district where the death took place. However UK Registrars are not able to register deaths overseas, even for UK nationals.
Nevertheless it is still possible to obtain a UK registration (and a UK death certificate) for deaths overseas among members of the armed forces, but it must be done by a legally authorised Registering Officer.
Where the burial is carried out at public expense, whether in the UK or overseas, MOD pattern headstones are erected if the NOK request it or if the burial is in a military cemetery. There is no variation in headstone if provided by MOD – this is in accordance with the War Graves Commission specification for all war graves. The graves are maintained at public expense, including graves purchased at public expense in civilian cemeteries.
Two people are entitled to travel and accommodation at public expense to attend the funeral overseas of a Service person who has died on duty. The funeral may be at any location in the UK or in the country where death occurred whilst serving overseas (subject to any overriding local conditions) or, in the case of Foreign and Commonwealth personnel, either in their Country of Origin or the country in which the NOK are normally resident. Wherever the funeral is held, the family will be eligible to receive the rate of Funeral Grant they would have been entitled to had the funeral been held in the UK. In circumstances where Service personnel are killed whilst in Service, but whose bodies are never recovered, the NOK may choose to have a headstone, urn plot marker or equivalent memorial plaque or an entry in a crematorium or other Book of Remembrance provided from public funds.
The Royal British Legion can provide funding for the basic costs of funerals. However, the Legion cannot provide assistance for additional funeral expenses such as headstones, memorials, food or flowers. Grants for basic funeral costs are normally only available to a spouse or partner who has been refused a Funeral Payment from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund.
Where these criteria are not fulfilled, the Legion can only offer assistance by approaching other organisations on behalf of the family, such as Regimental Associations.
Further information is available from the Service Personnel & Veterans Agency (SPVA). That appointed Visiting Officer (VO) will be able to advise you on what is and what is not covered in the funding provided