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Service casualties

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


The MOD Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) is located at Imjin Barracks, Innsworth and is manned 24 hours a day/ 365 days a year.  Dealing with various Service authorities and the public, the Operations Room alone makes and receives some 90,000 telephone calls per year.


The JCCC’s primary role is to oversee and co-ordinate the administration of all casualty casework for the British Armed Forces worldwide.  This includes tasking Service authorities with notifying the relatives of an illness or death of a member of the Armed Forces (including those killed or injured on operations such as those in Afghanistan), initiating follow on support for service families such as authorising hospital visits at public expense and the efficient repatriation of bodies of those who die whilst serving overseas (also see ‘Repatriation’).  A Major Incident Centre is also held at 2 hours readiness to manage any incident involving large numbers of casualties and respond to enquiries from concerned relatives.

The JCCC also investigates some 4,600 requests for compassionate travel per year affecting the families of deployed Service Personnel.  Where appropriate, it will authorise the immediate travel back to the UK of a serviceman or woman to allow them to provide support to or attend the bedside of  close family  who are seriously ill,  or to help resolve a domestic crisis.

Following a death in service, the JCCC also provides advice to the single service secretariats, visiting officers and executors on post death administration issues. This includes advice on funeral entitlement, authorising the release of personal effects, making payments to the estate, consideration of claims for exemption from inheritance tax under S154 of the Inheritance Tax Act and offering to mark service graves.

Commemorative and historic casualty casework

Even today, the JCCC can receive notification at any time that remains have been discovered in countries where British forces were in action or imprisoned during either of the two World Wars, or indeed any other conflict. In such circumstances, the local Service Attachés will often be the first point of contact and will be the focal point for liaison with the civil and military authorities in the country concerned and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Neither the CWGC nor the JCCC actively seek the remains of British casualties from past conflicts, as extensive efforts were made in the immediate aftermath of both world wars to retrieve the bodies of missing personnel. As a result, remains of the war dead are now usually discovered in connection with road works, the excavation of foundations for buildings, archaeological digs, farming activity or metal detecting and battlefield “scavenging” by private individuals. Any civil engineering work on the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium routinely produces remains. Ordinarily the finder of the human remains should report this to the police, who would contact the local coroner or equivalent authority. Once the coroner is satisfied that the remains are those of a British or Commonwealth Serviceman, the British Embassy or High Commission or CWGC would be contacted. The Defence Attaché/CWGC then in turn alerts the JCCC.

JCCC staff are responsible for co-ordinating attempts to identify the remains and to trace and inform relatives of the discovery. Whilst in many cases the scarcity of the discovered remains means positive identification is not possible, clues are sought from personal effects, identity discs and badges of rank.   Forensic specialists are also consulted and where appropriate asked to examine the remains. The JCCC will compare all the evidence and any specialist reports against details obtained from Service records such as height, weight, boot size, age, identifying marks, hair colour of likely candidates. They will also attempt to identify the body from contemporary accounts, battalion war diaries, unit histories etc. This process will often involve the relevant Service historical branch or regimental association.  Where a casualty is thought to be a particular individual, DNA samples will also be taken to help identification.  Where positive identification is possible, the JCCC then attempts to trace the family, initially by writing to the home address given on the personal record of the casualty but local media appeals will also be made and the aid of regimental and squadron associations sought.

Once traced the family will be offered a full military funeral overseas in accordance with the policy in force at the time of death. Two members of the family are invited to attend at public expense and the grave will be marked by a headstone supplied by the CWGC. In those cases where no identification is possible, the remains are interred in a grave in a dignified ceremony. The headstone will read "KNOWN UNTO GOD".  Should evidence be presented to help identify such remains at a later date, the JCCC will consider this evidence and where appropriate arrange the provision of a replacement headstone by the CWGC.  With increased interest in family histories, consideration of claims at to the identity of unknown soldiers is now a significant growth area for the JCCC.

For more information, please call 01452 712612 Ext 7330 or 6303

Protection of Military Remains Act 1986

In the UK, battlefields and aircraft crash sites are protected places and excavation of such sites is strictly controlled.  Under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, the JCCC licenses military aviation archaeology in the UK with some 40-50 licences being granted each year to research groups and private individuals to allow them examine and recover wreckage from aircraft crash sites where it is believed no human remains will be disturbed and there is no unexploded ordnance.  However, if human remains are discovered, they are treated in the same manner as those discoveries overseas.

For more information, please call 01452 712612 Ext 7330 or 6303


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