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Former Gunnery Instructors Warrant Officer Jack Donnelly, BEM, RNZN and Chief Petty Officer Tony Lewis, RNZN have written a Ceremonial Planning, Procedural and Protocol Guide for the RNZRSA.

The fourth chapter is reproduced below:

                                 “Our tribute to the fallen”

A very solemn and formal military ritual in which the wreath symbolizes remembrance. The type of flowers making up a wreath have different meanings, and there are various types of wreaths that may be laid on ANZAC Day/Remembrance Day.

Planning and organising the wreath laying ceremony begins at the committee meeting with your nominations of whom to invite to lay a wreath. Once your list has been finalised the next consideration is to arrange the order of precedence.

Each RSA organising committee will have their own way of determining the order in which wreaths are to be laid. Generally, wreaths are laid in order of seniority, or prominence of those attending. However common sense, and a little flexibility is sometimes the best way to proceed. If, for example you have invited the Air Vice Marshall of the Air-Force (AVM) as your official guest, then priority would be on seniority. Here is a suggested order of precedence to consider:

  • Official Guest
  • President of the local RSA
  • RSA members
  • Family/Relatives of deceased servicemen/women
  • A NZDF Officer
  • NZ Merchant Navy representative
  • The local MP
  • Mayor
  • Appointed Councillor(s)
  • Essential service units (Police, Fire-brigade)
  • Cadet units
  • Schools
  • Members of the public
  • Anyone who has not yet laid a wreath.

Here are a range of wreaths that maybe laid:

  1. The laurel wreath.
  2. The poppy wreath
  3. The flower wreath
  4. The rosemary wreath
  5. A single poppy
  6. A photo of the deceased
  7. A book tribute
  8. A lit candle.

When sending out your invitations to those whom you have named to lay a wreath, always ensure that you include a letter which shows their position in the queue and the procedure for laying a wreath.

Throughout the wreath laying ceremony, it is appropriate to have a ‘lament’ played by either a lone piper, band, solo vocalist or musical equipment. A lament is an expression of sorrow, grief and mourning.

RSA’s may wish to purchase a length of red carpet (3-4 metres) to act as a distinctive “gateway” for those about to lay their wreath, adding eminence to this solemn event.

The recommended procedure for the laying of a wreath is advised but not mandatory. It is as follows:

  1. When your name is mentioned march/move up to the cenotaph/memorial with your wreath in the left or both hands,
  2. On arrival, halt, pause and look, (for available space)
  3. Then slowly move forward, bend to place your wreath,
  4. Adopt the position of attention,
  5. Take one pace rearwards and pause,
  6. If wearing military uniform and head-dress carry out the hand salute,
  7. If not in military uniform, veterans, service men & women, bow your head & carry out the veteran’s salute, (Whether or not you are wearing head-dress)
  8. Turn in direction of your seat and march/move off.

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