Harold Percival funeral: Over two hundred strangers attend service for veteran after appeal in local newspaper goes viral
Harold Jellicoe Percival, who was a distant relative of Spencer Perceval, served as RAF ground crew with Bomber Command during the Second World War
Monday 11 November 2013
More than 200 people have attended the funeral of an RAF war veteran they never knew after an appeal for mourners was posted in a local newspaper and went viral on social networks.
Harold Jellicoe Percival, who was a distant relative of Spencer Perceval - the only British prime minister to be assassinated, served as RAF ground crew with Bomber Command during the Second World War.
Boys play with flags before the funeral of Royal Air Force veteran Harold Jellicoe Percival
He was part of the ground team who worked with the famous Dambusters squadron No. 617 whose daring raids, which took place in May 1943, destroyed strategically important German dams.
Mr Percival, who died in October aged 99 in a nursing home, had no close family members able to attend the service, never married and never had any children.
A request for people to attend the ceremony, poignantly held at 11am on Armistice Day at a crematorium in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, appeared in a local media before being picked up on social media and promoted by people including the comedian Jason Manford.
Those involved in organising Mr Percival's funeral were contacted by veterans' groups and other military supporters keen to acknowledge Mr Percival's career.
Mr Percival lived in Penge, south London, before joining the RAF. During the war he was based in the north west.
After working in Australia after the war, he later retired to England and lived at the Alistre Lodge Nursing and Care Home in Lytham St Annes. His nephew, David Worsell, is unable to attend the service, but his son - Mr Percival's great nephew - will represent the family.
A two minutes silence is observed around the coffin of Royal Air Force veteran Harold Jellicoe Percival before his funeral service
Mr Worsell said: "My uncle would be very surprised at the attention this seems to have received and the number of people wanting to attend.
"What with him being a very private person, forming long-term relationships didn't seem to be part of his make-up.
"He didn't really speak about his military career but he perhaps wished he didn't leave the RAF at the end of the war. But he was a free spirit."
The funeral took place as Britain marked Armistice Day with two minutes silence.
Acts of remembrance have taken place across the country, including a service at the national Armed Forces Memorial in Staffordshire.
The last surviving First World War widow, Dorothy Ellis, was among the guests at the outdoor event.
The memorial bears the names of more than 16,000 fallen service personnel.
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