NZ FLAG FACT NUMBER 76
A pall is a cloth draped over a coffin during a funeral. Throughout both World Wars, the military’s official practice was to place a Union Jack over the coffins of its members who died in service.
In 1942 funeral director E. Morris Junior wrote to the Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, J. W. Heenan, to ask him just which flag should be used during military funerals. According to Morris, funeral directors ‘maintain that there is only one flag that represents the King and Empire and that is the Union Jack and therefore that is the only flag permissible to be used at military funerals … Every soldier swears allegiance of this King and Empire, and the Union Jack is the only flag that truly represents King and Empire.’
Heenan responded: ‘The Army Secretary’s reply to the question was that so far as military funerals are concerned, the custom is to use the Union Jack to cover the casket. The Naval Secretary has stated that it is customary for the coffin of any deceased member of the Naval Forces to be draped with a six breadth Union Jack.’ The Air Force also agreed with this practice.
In his book Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War, Glynn Harper quoted one veteran of that war who remembered: ‘Every morning a dreadful significant line of figures lies in the stern covered with the Union Jack … It is all a horrible nightmare’.
Among the many funerals of military personnel during World War II was that of Gunner Leslie Gauld in 1941. A member of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Gauld had been invalided home to New Zealand from England, but he collapsed and died on his return. The Auckland Star reported: ‘Representatives of the Otahuhu Returned Association were present and provided the Union Jack which covered the casket.’
From New Zealand Flag Facts by historian Malcolm Mulholland. Read more at: