British military funerals

How is a British military funeral paid for, what are the processes and how can bereaved families get additional funeral support? Find out more here.

If a Service person dies on duty, the Ministry of Defence arranges a publicly funded funeral, or provides some funding for a private funeral. It all depends on the wishes of the bereaved family.

This includes Reserve forces, and Foreign and Commonwealth (F&C) personnel.

Here’s what you can expect for a British military funeral.

If a military person dies naturally, the process of seeing their body isn’t much different than if they were a civilian. 

However, if they died in operation, things can be more complicated. If they wish, the bereaved family can view the body after repatriation.

However, they should be informed of the state of the body, especially if there’s a chance that it’ll cause distress. If you’re unsure, ask to talk to the Coroner or the Undertaker. You could also talk to the MOD Contractor – they’ll be the person accepting the body back into the UK.

In accidents resulting in multiple deaths, it may take some time for DNA evidence to be collected and identities confirmed. In some cases there is no body. This poses its own particular problems, especially if 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. But, UK Registrars are not able to register deaths overseas – even for UK nationals.

It is still possible to obtain a UK registration (and a UK death certificate) for deaths overseas for  members of the armed forces. However, this must be done by a legally authorised Registering Officer.

Where a funeral is funded by the public, either in the UK or oversees, an MOD pattern headstone will be put up. This is either because the family has requested it, or the person who has died is being burried in a military cemetery. 

There is no variation in an MOD headstone – this is in accordance with the War Graves Commission specification for all war graves. This is because these graves are maintained at public expense, including military graves in civilian cemeteries.

If a Service person died on duty, but didn’t have their body recovered, their family can choose from the following:

  • A headstone
  • An urn plot marker or equivalent memorial plaque 
  • An entry in a crematorium or other Book of Remembrance 

These are all funded by the public.

A military funeral may be at:

  • Any location in the UK
  • In the country where they died on duty (subject to any overriding local conditions) 
  • For Foreign and Commonwealth personnel – either in their Country of Origin or the country where their family lives.

Wherever the funeral is held, the family will be eligible to receive the same Funeral Grant they’d be entitled to if it had been held in the UK.

If a Service person is having an overseas funeral, two people are entitled for travel and accommodation. This is funded by the public.

Help with funeral costs

Your Visiting Officer (VO) will also be able to advise you on what is, and what isn’t, covered in any funding provided.

The Royal British Legion can help you with funding the basic costs of a funeral. 

However, they can’t provide assistance for additional funeral expenses. This includes headstones, memorials, food and flowers. 

These grants are only available to bereaved partners who’ve been refused a Funeral Payment from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

If they can’t offer a grant, the Legion will talk to other organisations who might be able to help out.

More helpful information can be found on Veterans UK

Looking for support?

Find out how we can help bereaved military families.