Hundreds expected to attend funeral for RAF serviceman after funeral home issues plea

Hundreds are now expected to attend funeral of 99-year-old RAF serviceman after plea for service personnel to attend his funeral was put in local paper

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The Independent Online

Hundreds are expected to show at the funeral for a 99-year-old ex-serviceman who died without any close family able to go, after a funeral home issued a plea for service personnel to attend.

Harold Jellicoe ‘Coe’ Percival passed away in his sleep on 25 October at Alistre Lodge Nursing Home, St Annes, Lancashire.

Funeral directors Roland L. Whitehead and Daughter issued an appeal in the Lytham St Annes Express for service personnel to attend the funeral, which quickly went viral after being shared across social media by service men and women.

The appeal read: “He served in RAF Bomber Command as ground crew during the Second World War.

“Any service personnel who can attend his funeral service would be appreciated.”

Since issuing the notice, funeral director Edmund Jacobs said they have received an overwhelming response.

"Not wanting to go out on his own, I put a little notice in the local newspaper, Mr Jacobs told The Independent."It's gone ballistic."

"I've just had somebody on the phone from New Zealand  - her grandfather was a squadron leader in the RAF, and they just wanted to pay their respects.

"Lytham Ladies choir are sending across a contingency to do something and motorcyclists from the British Legion want to be involved. It's really blossomed and we'll give him a really good send off."

Information about Mr Percival is slowly beginning to emerge, who served in RAF bomber command as ground crew during the Dambusters raid in World War II. He then travelled the world before working in Australia and later returning to Blackpool. Upon his return he was found injured in the streets and taken in by social services, who cared for him until his death.

He was a distant relative of former British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was shot dead by a bankrupt broker, John Bellingham, as he entered the House of Commons, in 1812.

His nephew, David Worsell, told the Press Association: “He was a private man, he worked in Australia for a number of years as a decorator and would visit England for holidays. He travelled around England with only his backpack.

“He didn't have a postal address, he just used to get everything sent to my mother's address and would go through it when they met up.”

Mr Worsell said he is unable to attend the service, but his son Mr Percival's, great nephew, will represent the family.

Poignantly, his funeral will take place on Remembrance Day, 11 November at the Lytham Park Crematorium.

funeralplea - Copy.jpg
A picture of the appeal placed in the local paper