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Ukraine Military Funeral Honors

Information compiled by Buddy Cooke

Military Funeral Honors are found in armies around the world. The basic elements of a military funeral include participation of military personnel, music of both national and religious nature, a flag draped casket, rifle salute, bugle call and the folding and presentation of the national ensign to the next of kin.

There has been some level of conflict since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. This sparked a conflict in the eastern Donbas region as separatists, backed by Russia, sought to overthrow the local governments. Fragile ceasefires were eventually reached. Then, on 24 February 2022, Russia fully invaded Ukraine on what Russia called a “special military operation”.

This conflict has raised interest in the musical community for ways to show support for Ukraine. Various bands around the world are performing the Ukrainian National Anthem, “Ще не вмерла України і слава, і воля” (Shche ne vmerla Ukrainy i slava, i volia; en: The glory and freedom of Ukraine has not yet perished) as a show of solidarity and support.

In that vein, I believe some buglers may be interested in the bugle calls of Ukraine. Particularly those related to memorial honors equivalent to Taps or Last Post. So here is the best information I have available on the topic.

The current set of bugle calls used in Ukraine are codified in a 1999 law called The Military Statute of the Armed Forces (549-XIV).

This statute includes 13 bugle calls:

Attention, Reveille, Mess Call, Get Started, Assembly Officers Call, Fire, Double Time, Combat Alarm, Daily Changing of the Guard, Dawn, Retreat, Signal for the Burial of a Serviceman

There is another law, About the Charter of Garrison and Guard Services of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (550-XIV). This statute was amended in 2021 to add the “Procedure for conducting a military funeral ritual”. The funeral procedure includes two additional bugle calls. The first call ПАМ’ЯТЬ (“Memory”) is sounded when the body is moved from the ‘place of farewell’ (a funeral service before moving to the gravesite, or possibly similar to a wake?) to the hearse. At the gravesite, the body is moved in silence from the hearse to the grave. Three volleys are fired and the second bugle call, ШАНА (“Honor”) is sounded.

This updated law does not seem to mention the other “Signal for the Burial of a Serviceman”. It seems that prior to 2021 there was no formal procedure for military funerals. The original bugle call may have been created as a call when the set of 13 calls were codified, and the other two created when the actual funeral procedure was set down (but this is minor speculation)

The beginning of the first call, “Memory”, seems based on the older “Signal for the Burial of a Serviceman”. I also find it interesting that if a body will lie in state at a place of honor in the capital, Kyev, then the first signal ПАМ’ЯТЬ (“Memory”) is sounded as the body is moved from the hearse into the place of honor, and later the second signal ШАНА (“Honor”) is sounded when the body is moved out of the place of honor and back to the hearse. I think it is noteworthy that the Ukrainian bugle calls differ from the Russian ones. Russia’s current bugle calls date to 1975, during the Soviet Union. Despite being a former part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine did not continue to use these bugle calls but has adopted a newer set of calls. (Unless they stem from some older source I have not found yet. I do not know for a fact they were created from scratch, but have not identified an older source for them.)

You can view an example of a Ukrainian military funeral from March 9, 2022 in Lviv:

Ukraine Military Funeral Honors

You can hear Memory and Honor along with the Ukraine National Anthem and rifle volleys (Note: this seems to differ from the published procedure, but seems in line with prior practices.) I cannot find examples of the bugle being used at military funerals prior to 2021, although there are a number of examples from 2014 and after. Most examples tend to include a band playing a funeral dirge, and then the band playing the National anthem during the firing of three volleys towards the end of the graveside service.

Buddy Cooke is the author and compiler of Anthology of Bugle Bugle in Two Volumes

Buddy Cooke has been a brass player for over 30 years. As a kid, he was a member of his local drum and bugle corps, school bands, the school marching band, and community band. Buddy attended West Point where he was a member of the Cadet Field Music Group and had the opportunity to be trained by the Hellcats. After serving as an Engineer Officer in a US Army Cavalry Unit (where he continued to bugle for some official functions) he started a career as an Army Civilian. He founded the “Powder Kegs” community band at Picatinny Arsenal. Dr Cooke is now an Assistance Professor in the Department of Military Instruction at West Point where he teaches tactics and is head of research for the West Point Simulation Center.

For over 20 years, Buddy has been collecting bugle music and researching military manuals about the history of field musicians. Now he is assembling that information into books to share with the world. His hope is to encourage others to learn this ancient art.

You can purchase the book Anthology of Bugle Bugle in Two Volumes here:

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