Funeral for the British Rifle, 8 July 1966
The Services, when they think of a joke, exploit it with enthusiasm, and that was what they did yesterday. The navy, assisted by some Army and Air Force people, arranged a mock funeral for the Lee Enfield No. 4 rifle, standard infantry weapon of the last year, which is gradually being replaced by NATO's new F.L. rifle.
At the Bisley range in Surrey, where a United Services shooting match was being held, 26 Naval officers and men in No. 1 uniform escorted a gun-carriage with a No. 4 rifle arranged on top of a coffin draped with the Union Jack. A piper played the lament. At the graveside an officer said solemnly “We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of our valued friend, the manually operated musket. In spite of the advent of the gas-operated gadget, it has continued to demonstrate that it is the man behind the gun that counts.” An R.A.F. officer dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief, stamped to the grave and scattered cartridge cases over the coffin. A Marine officer placed a wreath of laurel leaves by the grave. Two army officers planted a cross. A bugler played the Last Post. The escorting party, who had carried No.4 rifles in the reversed position appropriate to funerals, pointed them to the sky and let off a volley of blanks.
It was all good fun, and no doubt excellent practice for the next big Service joke: the funeral of an aircraft carrier.