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Why the phrase "Crossing The Bar"?
(& the low down on "Scattering Ashes" at Sea)
There are certainly two schools of thought on this one of which is the age old naval custom of generally committing those who died at sea to the deep. Lord Nelson was certainly an exception to this.
This custom was often continued by family members and friends of the deceased who had requested a sea burial but who were no longer in the navy and who had passed away on shore.
The practice was later considered to be indelicate by the port authorities because often people had been depositing their loved ones within the port jurisdiction, and with the rise and fall of the tides one can imagine the unhappy results, and it was because of this that a general rule was issued that burial at sea must only be carried out away from the shoreline and thus, those being so committed, must cross the harbour bar and go out to sea.
The other thinking was that it had something to do with the poem by Tennyson but I would suggest that the Poet took his inspiration from the legend and not the other way around.
Every Seaman you ever speak to will tell you the sea runs right to their very core of their soul and for many of us the image of the burial at sea looms large in the imagination.
And whilst burials at sea in coastal water are not permitted a considerable number opt for having their ashes scattered at sea.
While we talk of "scattering" this is not actually the case as nowadays the ashes must be in a suitable (i.e. biodegradable) container which is ceremoniously and respectfully dropped into the sea.
So you may also be interested to know the Royal Navy carries out the "scattering of cremated remains" at sea from Portsmouth every Wednesday except in August and at Christmas.
From my research this service appears to be non-secular, free and available to all Royal Marines and Royal Naval personal.
This relates to a special RN honour and tradition, reserved and restricted only to the family of a departed loved one who has served in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines - or Merchant Navy.
There are certain conditions primarily about the urn which needs to be fit for purpose and the numbers and ages of those attending, but what a great send off for Salty Dogs and Jack Tar’s alike!
Those wishing to consider this option should contact The Chaplaincy in Portsmouth HM Naval Base. :
Allan LEE, Verger, or Ms Lisa PAFFETT,
Admiralty House, HM Naval Base,
Hants, PO1 3LS
Telephone: 02392 724232 or 02392 722915
For your perusal a copy of Tennyson's poem is set out below.
This information was correct on 28th February, 2014 Brian Saunders
THE STORY OF “THE LAST POST"
Reportedly, this originates from 1862 during the American Civil War when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia.
The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him towards his encampment.
When the Captain finally reached his own lines he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier but the soldier was dead. The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of his own son.
The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy had enlisted in the Confederate Army. The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status.
His request was only partially granted as the Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members to play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.
Out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him one musician. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform. This wish was granted.
The haunting melody, we now know as ‘The Last Post’ used at military funerals was born. The words are:
Day is done, Gone is the sun ... From the lakes. From the hills. From the sky.
All is well. Safely rest, God is nigh. Fading light. Dims the sight.
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. From afar...drawing nigh. Falls the night.
Thanks and praise. For our days. ‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky.
As we go. This we know. God is nigh.
That apparently is the myth according to information sourced from this website http://tapsbugler.com/the-taps-myth/2/
They say that there is no proof that a Captain Robert Ellicombe ever existed. The myth gives no indication of what unit or state he served. In order to be believed, one needs to produce muster, discharge or pension papers and background history of both father and son, units, etc. Also, where is the son’s grave? There is no basis at all to the story, except that it also occurred near Harrison’s Landing in July 1862, where the true birth of Taps took place.
The true story may not tug at the heartstrings as much but certainly can be documented and shown to be the correct factual story of how Taps came into being.
So where did this myth come from?
Historians have traced this tale to a Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” story that Robert Ripley created for his short-lived TV program in 1949.
The Taps myth took on a life of its own and was even printed as fact in an Ann Landers or Dear Abby column. A retraction was later printed. It has acquired a renewed life on the Internet and is spread by many unsuspecting but well-meaning people who believe it to be true. It is unfortunate to see it on websites, especially military and veterans’ sites that should know better. It is hoped that those who are interested in history will spread the word to stop the myth.
We know much about the two men involved with the creation of Taps. Both Daniel Adams Butterfield and Oliver Willcox Norton survived the Civil War and went on to become prosperous and respected businessmen and citizens. They wrote about their Civil War experiences and of the creation of Taps in July 1862.
For a historically accurate and fitting arrangement for performance see, “Extinguish Lights” (or Taps) on page 38 of The Bugler’s Call Book under the heading: Cavalry Calls, contained in the back of Elias Howe’s United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor published in 1861.
Most assuredly “Taps” was not a Confederate music composition.
Remember those lost or harmed while serving their country.Also remember those who have served and returned.And those presently serving in the Armed Forces.
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