Dear Cathy, I looked up Burials in the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia that is free online.The requirements were more strict then about people being practicing Catholics.Things didn't change a lot between 1914 and 1940 for a lot of Catholic things, though the burial practices had to keep up with the times and circumstances.
The Catholic Church holds forgiving sins very very high on its priorities.The amount of repentance required in confession allows the person to be forgiven if the reason they are repenting is just that they are afraid of going to hell.The Church hopes for better motives such as sorrow for the suffering of the victim and his/her family, or the damage and suffering done to one's own family and the damage done to the community, but if the person is merely sorry because he/she is afraid of going to hell, the priest will give absolution, and the person's sins will be forgiven.That has been the case for many hundreds of years.
If the person didn't get to confession but expressed sorrow to a spouse or someone else, they might be able to be considered repentant.There was something about that situation in the Catholic Encylopedia, too.
You're probably going to have to make an appointment with a priest who would know the burial practices in the 40s and discuss the whole situation with him, if you have questions that can't be answered in general.Just keep in mind that no matter how straight-laced the Church seemed to be in the old days, they were always generous about forgiving sins.A person might have to say some rosaries for his/her penance, if he/she did something fairly serious, but his/her sins would be forgiven.
I was never worried that I would not be forgiven, when I went to confession.The only requirements are sorrow for sin and a firm purpose of amendment (seriously trying not doing it again). Sincerely, Kate