Reville, Last Post, 19-gun salute, Missing Man Formation: Elaborate full military honours for General Ogolla explained

The Kenya Navy fire a 21-gun salute during a past event.

Photo credit: File

What you need to know:

  • In keeping with military tradition, General Ogolla will be given a military send-off as the most senior officer in the Kenya Defence Forces. 

The military will today pay its highest tribute to its leader, the Chief of Defence Forces, General Francis Ogolla, in a lavish ceremony at the Ulinzi Sports Complex, Lang'ata in Nairobi.

General Ogolla is the first Chief of Defence Forces to die while in office and on active military duty. He was the 10th military chief. 

President William Ruto, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, will preside over the ceremony ahead of the burial on Sunday at Gen Ogolla's Ng'iya home in Siaya County. 

General Ogolla was killed in a helicopter crash in Kaben area on the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties on Thursday. Nine other officers died with him and President Ruto has ordered flags to be flown at half-mast for three days of national mourning. 

In keeping with military tradition, General Ogolla will be given a military send-off as the most senior officer in the Kenya Defence Forces. 

At the heart of the ceremony will be a complete military honour that will begin with the military reveille, traditionally used to wake soldiers for duty, but in death, appropriated to mean hope in the afterlife.

 “The purpose of Reveille in Commonwealth military tradition is to wake up the sleeping soldiers.  Sentries would be strategically placed in depositions during the night to warn the main force of enemy infiltration.  The sounding of Reveille would signal the duty officers had completed their inspection of the perimeter and sentries would be able to stand down,” says an explanation by the Australian military, which follows British military traditions

The word Reveille is derived from the French word ‘reveillez’, meaning to ‘wake-up’. 

The British origins of these bugle call meant, the soldiers’ days began with buglers playing Reveille and ended with the sounds of the Last Post.

The reveille will be followed by a one-minute silence during which all the people gathered are expected to reflect deeply on the death of the general and the sacrifice that he has made for the country. 

It traces its origin to the 1800s when most of the soldiers did not have wrist watches to regulate their activities for the day. They relied on it to wake up and start their daily activities.

The Last Post, one of the most popular military short musical call played using the bugle or the trumpet will also be played to symbolise the final journey of the general and the end of his duty.

Its solemn and mournful melody reminds the mourners of the ultimate sacrifice made by the soldier in serving the nation. It became a common place on the battlefield conflicts in the Boer War and the First World War. It was first performed during the inauguration of the Menin Gate memorial in 1927.

Traditionally, the last post is played to signify that the duty officer has completed their inspection and secured the military camp for the night. 

The Forces Net publication quotes the sorrowful melody of the Last Post as follows;

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them

 A 19-gun salute will be mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in honour of General Ogolla. The salute is also used for the retired heads of state who have died, the vice presidents, Senate, National Assembly speakers, and other top officials, including state governors, in the United States, with different appropriations in other jurisdictions, depending on seniority.

The last time the military performed the honours was during the burial of Former President Mwai Kibaki two years ago.

According to the US Army Centre of Military History, the salute involves real guns but live artillery shells are not fired. The soldiers use blanks for safety reasons.

The last military honour will be the Missing Man Formation.

According to the US Department of Defence, the honour involves four vintage Army Air Forces aircraft flying in a formation with a space where one of the plains should be used to symbolize the deceased person’s absence.

The tradition is said to have begun 100 years ago by the British Royal Airforce and is used to as a form of salute to a fallen pilot.

General Ogolla was a decorated fighter pilot, trained in the US, France among others.