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100 years ago: The Tommy’s ‘R.I.P’

18 August 2017

August 17th, 1917.

A DIVISIONAL order has been issued on the Western Front which seems to call for action on the part of the Church. The officer issuing it has noticed that in some cases the letters R.I.P. had been painted on crosses erected over the graves “of Protestant and Nonconformist personnel”. It enjoins those to whom the order is issued to ensure that “these letters are in future only used when Roman Catholics are buried,” and instructs them if possible to have them removed “in cases where they are known to have been used in the case of Protestant and Nonconformist personnel”. It suggests that this could probably be done by the nearest Graves Registration Unit if a list of the crosses where this amendment is necessary can be supplied. The order, which may possibly be the work of, or be inspired by, a Roman Catholic of the meaner sort, by inference labels the Church of England Protestant, a term which she refuses, and prescribes what shall and shall not be done by Churchmen in regard to the graves of their brethren. The crosses to which it alludes are not the official crosses, but are those which the men themselves make for their fallen comrades, and we understand that it is almost the rule for them to add these letters of their own accord. Both the order itself and the manner of its issuing are, if our information is correct, ultra vires, and its withdrawal should be demanded.

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