Hundreds Attend War Vet's Funeral

It began with a tiny notice placed by undertakers in a Lancashire newspaper: "Harold died peacefully in Alistre Lodge Nursing Home on 25th October 2013, aged 99 years. A single man, he has no close family who can attend his funeral. Served in RAF Bomber Command as ground crew in world war two. Any service personnel who can attend his funeral service would be appreciated." The notice was picked up last Friday by Sgt Rick Clement, who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan in 2010. "Need a big favour from any military or ex serving members ..." began his tweet. The appeal went viral. By the time the dead soldier's cremation took place on Monday, Roland L Whitehead and Daughter funeral directors had received calls and flowers from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and beyond from people sending their regards to an old man they had never met. When the clock struck 11am, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, at least 300 strangers had turned up in the rain at Lytham crematorium to make sure that Harold Jellicoe Percival – aka Coe – was not laid to rest alone. Eighty-year-old Bernard Worsfold could not quite believe his eyes. Chair of the local RAF veterans' association, a week ago he thought he might be one of the only mourners. He did not know Percival, but he had agreed to attend after being asked by the funeral home planning Percival's cremation, who feared his passing would go unmarked.

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World War II