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Introduction I Repatriation I The Royal Navy I Contemporary British Government Policy on Wrecks I San Carlos I Zwanenburg

The Royal Navy

Given that the Royal Navy has for hundreds of years conducted its business on the High Seas, a unique and unforgiving environment, historically, the disposal of the dead  differed in some significant respects from those which obtained on land. The most obvious difference was the practice of burial at sea, with the dead sailor being sewn into his hammock and committed to The Deep under the White Ensign. The custom of painting the middle and lower decks of warships red in order to render blood less conspicuous, is another interesting aspect of this subject and can be observed in the colour scheme for HMS VICTORY in Portsmouth.

In 1917 the Fundamental Principles of the Imperial War Graves Commission redefined the manner in which burials of the Great War dead were to be handled, for all three Services. The Commission also established the practice of commemorating the fallen on permanent memorials, even if burial took place at sea, or if bodies were not recovered. Another important change was the Commission's rule that no individual could be commemorated on one of their memorials, if their name appeared on a headstone over a grave. The Admiralty belatedly promulgated these changes in 1921. [1]   Outside of major conflicts, burials at sea are no longer performed or offered for RN personnel

[1] Admiralty Fleet Order 1625/1921.


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