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Civilian repatriation to Brize

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Civilian repatriation to Brize

Old 2nd Jul 2015, 13:17
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Civilian repatriation to Brize

We all have the greatest of sympathy for those families affected by the cowardly slaughter in Tunisia. But I do wonder at the wisdom of ceremonial repatriation to Brize Norton.

We can all see the appropriateness of ceremonial repatriation to a military airfield for armed forces personnel who die on active service.

But how many civilians have to die, and in what circumstances, before the same plan is activated?

If 20 British civilians had been killed in the Lufthansa (pilot instigated) crash? Or in the Air France 447 accident? Was it done for those Brits who died in the 9/11 attack in NYC? A hypothetical group of children killed in a bus crash on a school trip to the continent?

Just curious...
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 14:22
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I certainly cannot speak for my British "cousins", but as a friend and one who shares the grief and outrage of this dastardly and deliberate attack on unarmed, defenseless civilians. I don't believe for a second that it was a "military action" by a "soldier of the faith." This was a criminal act, with no righteous justification.

That the British government would render "military honors" to these victims is a reasonable question. However, Britain has signalled to their families and also to the world that life is precious, that this loss cuts deep into the soul of the nation, and especially that It will not be forgotten. We see too many horrors in the news every day that tend to create emotional callouses, we get so accustomed to them.

I hope that Britain and their friends will be courageous and never forget what happened and never let these evil men and those who planned these acts get away with murder. Hunt them down, never let them rest, and seek justice, not revenge.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 14:25
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Civilian repatriation to Brize

With respect in many aircraft crashes the bodies are either not recovered or in the case of the recent Germanwings incident very little left.
Regardless I think the government are doing the right thing by repatriating the victims of this terrible event to Brize.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 14:29
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A lot of people wondered about the wisdom of using military assets for this! See the thread on C17 for Tunisia.

Once the Govt decided (or, rather, once the 'special advisors' had decided) to use C17, Brize was the obvious place to put it because you don't have the same difficulties with airside access that you do at commercial airports, and the ground team is familiar with handling the aircraft.

I can also see the sense in using military personnel to offload the coffins as (sadly) it is a known process and there is full awareness of the hazards and techniques involved. I suspect a typical funeral director would have struggled with a heavy coffin and a C17 ramp. The alternative would have been a forklift or similar - hardly dignified.

Your question about thresholds is entirely valid, as this case shows why you should not make up policy on the hoof. Where do you start and stop? The last full ceremonial repat of a civilian was for Princess Diana, who wasn't really a civilian anyway. There will almost certainly be some people whose nearest and dearest came home as freight because theirs was a non-operational death in service and who will now be asking what makes the Tunisia casualties special. The answer to that question may be about political signalling, but it might equally be about failure to heed advice or to think through the consequences of the decision.

The trouble now is that a precedent has been set which will drive public expectation in any future event. And if you set a number (15?) you can imagine the pressure to match the Tunisia response if the actual number of dead turns out to be 1 under par. Someone is going to have to set some qualifying boundaries, such as armed terrorism + mass UK casualties abroad; better still would be for No 10 to declare it as a political message and a one-off event that will not be repeated.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 14:40
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Not the UK, but the Dutch did something very similar for the victims of MH17.

Bodies of MH17 victims arrive back in the Netherlands | Daily Mail Online
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 15:25
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Greatest sympathy, of course, to all families but this ceremonial treatment of the dead tourists is downgrading the arrival of our deceased military personnel who died serving Queen and country. In current war theatres, crawling through the sand not lying on it to get a suntan.

I still no not know why the Royal Air Force should be involved in flying back the deceased. It should be down to the insurance companies or tour operators. It doesn't cost the airline much to chuck a coffin in the hold and have the usual respectful procedures take place with UK undertakers upon arrival.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 15:36
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As for the RAF unloading the coffins, probably health and safety and because it's a Military aircraft, as said they are experienced at that side of things, though it could then be handed over to the Civilian counterparts for the remainder.

I would imagine the location is to do with the autopsy if needed and the Coroner, as Oxford has sadly lots of experience with gunshot victims.

I agree it downgrades the Military side of things, but I would doubt many civilian airlines simply have the equipment to transport so many coffins at once and it would probably mean a freighter... not exactly showing respect having the coffins offloaded from the hold of a pax flight or DHL freighter etc in front of the Worlds press, and reflects badly against how we do things in the UK, hence probably why they fell back on a tried and tested system that has been proved to work.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 16:36
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I still no not know why the Royal Air Force should be involved
Because the PM said so?
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 16:56
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Exascot,

Greatest sympathy, of course, to all families but this ceremonial treatment of the dead tourists is downgrading the arrival of our deceased military personnel who died serving Queen and country. In current war theatres, crawling through the sand not lying on it to get a suntan.
As a gentleman we were as taught at Cranwell will, if in uniform salute, raise their hat or if hatless bow their head in respect to the deceased. The RAF were tasked for this by their chain of command and I suspect their respective political master and therefore performed their duties as set out in AP818. I suspect AP 818 has no section covering the repatriation of civilians so therefore the only guidance available was used. The deceased are just as much victims of an 'act' of war/terrorism.

Nutloose,

I would imagine the location is to do with the autopsy if needed and the Coroner, as Oxford has sadly lots of experience with gunshot victims.
There is a requirement in law for a Coroners post mortem and inquest in the case of unexpected death or death that may have been as a result of criminal action.

Last edited by air pig; 2nd Jul 2015 at 18:02.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 17:29
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I am somewhat surprised at the curmudgeonly nature of a few posts on this thread. Seems a decision (no doubt by politicians, advised by CDS) decided that repatriation would be by the RAF. Thereupon it falls to the RAF to carry out that duty with respect to the victims and their families, a duty the RAF would be proud to discharge. The manner has been restrained and dignified, and entirely appropriate, and IMHO detracts nothing from the way in which the bodies of Service casualties are repatriated and received.


I suggest we commend QCS and Brize Norton' SWO for a job well done, and leave the bereaved to grieve in peace.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 17:35
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Agreed with both of the last posts. So tragic
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 17:38
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I couldn't agree more.....very well said Wander00.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 17:54
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Well said Wander, the RAF were tasked with it and discharged it professionally, with respect and dignity.

Well done

YS
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 18:37
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On a point of detail, if a BBC news report was accurate yesterday (chances?) then mention of the Oxford coroner is not relevant. Apparently the bodies are being taken to London.
That aside, I would also like to endorse Wander's well chosen words.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 18:49
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Think 'respect', and not 'ceremony', and it makes more sense (to me). Then, when the military is tasked to do the job, you get to witness the utmost respect.

CG
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 19:37
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Greatest sympathy, of course, to all families but this ceremonial treatment of the dead tourists is downgrading the arrival of our deceased military personnel who died serving Queen and country. In current war theatres, crawling through the sand not lying on it to get a suntan.

I still no not know why the Royal Air Force should be involved in flying back the deceased. It should be down to the insurance companies or tour operators. It doesn't cost the airline much to chuck a coffin in the hold and have the usual respectful procedures take place with UK undertakers upon arrival.
Exascot - I mostly agree with your posts so it is a rare exception that I disagree with you. However, HM Forces serve the UK - not HM Forces. This was a rather exceptional case and although I was a bit surprised initially, after a few moments reflection I decided that I agreed that this was the right thing to do.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 19:41
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EngAl,

I suspect it will be the Oxford Coroner as that is the place of arrival so therefore is in his/her jurisdiction.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 19:53
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As a Halton apprentice of 1969 vintage I was taught the following ;

If a funeral courtage passes whilst you are in uniform you are to face the courtage, stand to attention and salute. If in civilian clothing face the courtage and stand to attention, without the salute.

It's about paying respect chaps, not about "full military honours". None of these victims will be given an honour guard, or firing party salute at their funerals, and as I recall, the coffins were not draped in the union flag.

I'm sure, the seriously wounded, who came home on the previous C17, were grateful for the security of being in the care of such proffesional servicemen, and will express that when they are well enough. It's obvious that many are concerned that in some way this intrudes in to the respect shown for our fallen servicemen of recent years, I don't believe it's so. It's an example of how our service can bring comfort and security to our fellow countrymen, whether civilian or military.

Smudge
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 19:58
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Very much approve of this task being handed over to the RAF. Obviously you could rationalise it by saying that in any year more than thirty tourists are going to be killed overseas in traffic accidents etc so why the fuss, but thats missing the point. I'd like to just add my own admiration for all the guys from QCS for the way they always carry out this sort of duty. Sadly they have had plenty of practice in recent years.
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Old 2nd Jul 2015, 20:17
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The military is there to serve the country. I think it entirely appropriate that the RAF are involved here.
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