Hundreds of strangers have turned out for the funeral of a war veteran, with social media once again proving its mettle as a force for good when it was feared nobody would turn up.
Former RAF gunner Sidney Marshall, 90, was laid to rest yesterday in a service attended by more than 200 people.
Funeral directors Roland Whitehead & Daughter had made an impassioned appeal for mourners last month after it was thought that Marshall would have hardly anyone at his service.
He had few relatives living locally, had no children and his wife Elizabeth died last year.
A flight sergeant in the Second World War, Marshall took part in the D-Day landings and had flown Lancaster bombers before being awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) for his courage.
He died at his home in St Annes, Lancashire on 16 June. An appeal was made in the local newspaper shortly afterwards before going viral on social media.
Undertaker Eddie Jacobs, 72, had pleaded for former and current servicemen and women to attend the service, as well as any members of the public who simply wanted to give Marshall a send-off befitting a war hero.
Bill Marshall, Sidney’s younger brother, who was in attendance at Lytham Crematorium, said: “I think he would have been flabbergasted. We just expected a few RAF here.
“We didn't expect half of Blackpool to turn up. It has been unbelievable, we even got a bunch of flowers from America - we don't know who sent them,” the 85-year-old added.
Reverend David Phillips asked mourners to thank Sidney “for all he did for us” while hymns I Vow To Thee My Country and Jerusalem were sung.
Appeal to attend the funeral service of W/O Sidney Marshall, an A/G who flew 28 missions on Lancasters. pic.twitter.com/iTKDRewINi; RAF Bomber crashes (@RAFBCCrashes) June 28, 2014
Hundreds turn out for funeral of WW2 veteran Sidney Marshall in Lytham. pic.twitter.com/MEj5Saar0i; AMY WELCH (@amywelchitv) July 4, 2014
Inside the funeral service for RAF veteran Sidney Marshall from Fylde. Mourners answered a call to pay respects pic.twitter.com/8KYoMUipNg; Steve Becker (@SteveBeckerHack) July 4, 2014
Marshall was one of nine brothers and sisters from Newcastle-upon-Tyne; a "private" man who rarely spoke about his wartime achievements, his brother said in a eulogy.
Additional reporting by agencies