The overriding principle behind the British programme for the military dead was that all the dead were equal. A total ban on the repatriation of the bodies of dead service people had been instituted in the First World War and the same rule was followed in the Second World War.

The only circumstances in which the next-of-kin could claim the body of a serviceman or servicewoman for private burial was if he or she had died in his home country.

The RAF was for the most part stationed in Britain during the war, and British airmen who died in accidents, a very significant cause of UK-based mortality, were often buried in their home graveyards whilst Dominion airmen were buried in RAF plots such as that at Cambridge City Cemetery.

In the Dominions, the position was reversed. To give an example, a British-born airman who died whilst training in Canada would be buried there.