A crematorium has been slammed for telling the family of a 96-year-old WWII veteran they can’t drape a Union Flag over his coffin because of ‘Covid rules’.
Major Frank Clark’s family were devastated when Southend Crematorium, Essex, said they wouldn’t be allowed to put the flag over his coffin – as is customary for members of the Armed forces.
The crematorium said this was due to ‘Covid rules’ and they couldn’t change protocol, even if whoever drapes the flag wears gloves and PPE.
Major Clark’s step-daughter Corinne, 65, said she was ‘absolutely appalled’ when the crematorium refused to lay the flag on his coffin.
She said it is a ‘soldier’s right’ and has demanded an apology for her and ‘all the other military families they have refused’.
Major Clark’s funeral will instead held at Basildon and District Crematorium, where permission for a Union Flag has been granted.
Southend Council has insisted it is in full support of having Union Flag at funerals – but said funeral directors can make their own rules as ‘private companies’.
Major Frank Clark’s (left, while serving, and right) family were devastated when Southend Crematorium, Essex, said they wouldn’t be allowed to put the flag over his coffin – as is customary for members of the Armed forces
Decorated veteran Major Clark was a member of the 2nd battalion of the Grenadier Guards.
He served as a tank driver in the Second World War and was deployed to Arnhem as part of Operation Market Garden.
Major Clark then went on to serve in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps and then the Intelligence Corps.
He served in north-west Europe, Malaya, Northern Ireland and Hong Kong in his long military career before spending his retirement writing history books.
He got a degree in military history at the age of 94, his family said.
Corinne – who declined to provide a last name – said: ‘It is a soldier’s right to have the Union Flag over their coffin.
‘He put his own life on the line for us and I can’t put a flag on his coffin? I was absolutely appalled.
‘That simple act, that means so much to military people. It is the symbol of it all.
‘It has made us wonder how many other military families they have impacted by this.
‘Most people would just roll over and it is not a weakness on their part.’
She has called on the crematorium to apologise ‘to us and to to all the other military families they have refused’.
Local councillor Stephen Aylen – who is also Corinne’s partner – said: ‘It’s an insult not to have a flag. They’ve served, particularly a person who’s a hero. A serving soldier.
‘To not allow him to have a flag, I was seriously confused.’
Mr Aylen was informed that funeral directors had been ordered by crematorium staff that flags were no longer permitted to be draped over veterans’ coffins.
He called the crematorium to query the policy.
Mr Aylen added: ‘I said “Captain Tom had a flag” but he was adamant and would not back down under Covid rules.’
Mr Aylen suggested the person who drapes the flag wear gloves and PPE – but the crematorium wouldn’t budge.
The family instead opted for the funeral to take place at Basildon and District Crematorium, who were happy to drape a flag over Major Clark’s coffin.
Mr Aylen said he was concerned the vulnerable, elderly and grieving family members subjected to the rules.
The crematorium (pictured) said this was due to ‘Covid rules’ and they couldn’t change protocol, even if whoever drapes the flag wears gloves and PPE
The councillor added: ‘What really hurt me was that servicemen had gone through Southend Crematorium who hadn’t been allowed flags.
‘Can you imagine a wife phoning up who’s 90-odd, or even anyone who has just been bereaved and being treated like that?
‘You’d just say “Oh, okay” because you’re in a state of shock. It’s just unacceptable.’
A Southend Council spokesperson said: ‘Southend-on-Sea Borough Council are fully supportive of the use of flags at funeral services and there are no restrictions on flags in place.
‘We are contacting funeral directors who are authorised to use our services to ensure they are aware of our stance on items on coffins.
‘As private companies, funeral directors will have their own processes in place which could limit the use of flags but this is down to the funeral director and not the council. We have also reminded relevant teams within the council.
‘Although we did not have direct contact with the family, we are sorry that they received contradictory advice to this.’