The Catafalque Party
A catafalque is a raised structure supporting a stand, upon which a coffin is placed for display before burial. People may then file past and pay their last respects to the deceased person.
Legend has it that the first catafalque (cat-a-falk) parties guarded important and wealthy people's coffins from thieves and vandals.
Today vigils, or catafalque parties, are mounted as a sign of respect around personages as they lie in State and around memorials on occasions of remembrance such as Anzac Day. (It could be said that a memorial is a 'symbolic coffin' for those who have fallen).
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.
The origin of the tradition of resting on reversed arms is lost in time. However, it was used by a Commonwealth soldier at the execution of Charles I in 1649, with the soldier being duly punished for his symbolic gesture towards the King's death. It is later recorded that at the funeral for Marlborough, in 1722, the troops carried out a formal reverse arms grill, which was especially invented for the service, as a unique sign of respect to the great soldier.
The 'modern trend' of sticking rifles upside down into the ground as a temporary memorial to a fallen soldier (with a helmet or a hat over the butt) originated with the introduction of tanks. When a soldier fell during an advance his comrade would pick up the rifle and stick it into the ground, by the bayonet, as a marker to indicate to the tanks that a wounded or dead soldier lay there. This was an attempt at ensuring that the armoured vehicle would not accidentally run over the body.