Legend has it that the first catafalque (cat-a-falk) parties guarded important and wealthy people’s coffins from thieves and vandals.
A catafalque, normally a raised platform supporting a bier on which a coffin rests, may be represented for ceremonial purposes by a shrine or remembrance stone.
At a memorial service for a distinguished personage, which is being held at a different location or time to the actual funeral, a representation of a catafalque may be erected in the churches concerned.
A catafalque party is a guard mounted over a catafalque on any one of the following occasions:
- during a period of lying in state,
- during a military funeral in a church,
- at a memorial or special occasion such as ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day, and
- during a memorial service in a church for a recently deceased distinguished personage.
A catafalque party consists of four sentries, a waiting member in reserve and a commander.
If a catafalque party is requested to be mounted for an extended period of e.g. ‘lying in state’ then a series of ‘watches’ divided into ‘vigil’ periods will be provided.
A catafalque party must not be senior in rank to the deceased over whom it is mounted.
Thanks to the National Support Group of 55/53 AIF for allowing us to use selected information from their publication “Remember”