+1
#1  Top Rated Post
You'll have to try hard to find a more beautiful, more feel-good story than this one.

When Harold Jellicoe Percival died last month aged 99, he had no family or close friends to attend his funeral except a handful of care home staff. It seemed as if there would be nobody to mourn the WWII veteran who served in Bomber Command as ground crew during the Dambuster raids by the RAF's 617 Squadron of May 1943.

But yesterday, after a newspaper appeal led to an internet campaign highlighting the forgotten war veteran’s case, hundreds of people who never knew him, including young children, came to pay their respects at his funeral – poignantly held at 11am on Armistice Day.

About 500 mourners turned up to his funeral yesterday in the Lancashire seaside town of Lytham St Annes, although only 100 of them could actually fit inside the crematorium for the service.

After the funeral cortege arrived a two-minute silence was observed, then Mr Percival’s coffin, draped in the Union and RAF flags, was carried in to the chapel to the strains of The Dambusters March amid spontaneous applause.

The Reverend Alan Clark told mourners: ‘You have come in numbers surpassing anything that was expected. You come not because you knew him, but because each of us are part of each other. We have a common humanity.’

Mr Percival was a distant relative of former British Prime Minister Spencer Percival who was assassinated in 1812, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.



We WILL remember him: Hundreds of strangers flock to Remembrance Day funeral of Bomber Command veteran who died alone aged 99


Harold Jellicoe Percival died in a nursing home and had no close relatives to attend his funeral in Lancashire
But more than 300 people, including many in uniform, attended the ceremony after advert placed in local paper
Mr Percival served as ground crew for Bomber Command and helped with the Dambusters raid
Two-minute Armistice Day silence was observed across Britain at 11am

By Hugo Gye (external - login to view)
12 November 2013
Daily Mail

His death could so easily have been marked with a simple service in an almost empty chapel.

Harold Jellicoe Percival, a last link to the Dambusters raid, never married and had no children. When he died last month aged 99 he had no close friends and it seemed there would be no one to mourn him except a handful of care home staff.

But yesterday, after a newspaper appeal led to an internet campaign highlighting the forgotten war veteran’s case, hundreds of people who never knew him came to pay their respects at his funeral – poignantly held at 11am on Armistice Day.


Remembrance: Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral of Harold Jellicoe Percival in Lancashire


Coffin: The former airman's casket was wrapped in a British flag and the Dambusters theme was played as it was carried in




March: Many of those who turned out to Mr Percival's funeral were apparently in the military themselves


Well-wishers: Two out of the hundreds of mourners who attended Mr Percival's funeral despite never having met him


Emotion: One mourner wept at the moving event, which came after it emerged that Mr Percival had no close family to attend the service


Veteran: Harold Jellicoe Percival, who died last month aged 99, served with Bomber Command during the Second World War

The extraordinary turnout of strangers included many children, alongside current and former military personnel in uniform, some on leave from Afghanistan. All were determined to honour the service Mr Percival gave his country with Bomber Command as ground crew on the famous May 1943 raids by 617 Squadron.

Beneath a grey sky they queued at the crematorium in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Around 100 filled the pews within, another 400 or so for whom there were not enough seats stood outside in the rain.

After the funeral cortege arrived a two-minute silence was observed, then Mr Percival’s coffin, draped in the Union and RAF flags, was carried in to the chapel to the strains of The Dambusters March amid spontaneous applause.

The Reverend Alan Clark told mourners: ‘You have come in numbers surpassing anything that was expected. You come not because you knew him, but because each of us are part of each other. We have a common humanity.’

He also told them: ‘We marvel at the power of the printed word’, referring to the short notice appealing for mourners which the undertakers had placed in the local paper.

The funeral organisers were contacted by veterans’ groups and other military supporters keen to acknowledge Mr Percival and the appeal was quickly picked up by others on social networking sites.

Overcrowding: So many mourners attended the funeral that they could not fit inside the crematorium


Silence: A trumpeter played the Last Post to remember the dead at 11am

Youngsters: Two of the younger mourners who turned out to pay their last respects to Mr Percival


Sermon: The vicar told those gathered that the funeral was testament to the power of the written word


Gratitude: Janet Wareing, a matron at Mr Percival's care home, spoke at his funeral


Mr Percival served as ground crew during the RAF's Dambusters raids of May 1943 when the 617 Squadron used ingenious bouncing bombs to destroy Germans dams


After the service, which ended with the Last Post, Mr Percival’s nephew Andrew Collyer-Worsell said of the turnout: ‘It’s staggering. It shows how great the British public are. He was not a hero, he was just someone who did his duty in World War Two. We were expecting a few people, a few local veterans, but it snowballed. It’s very emotional.’

Undertaker Eddie Jacobs said: ‘This was a man with only a couple of very distant relatives going to his last resting place alone. The British people responded like only the British can.’

Among the mourners were staff from Alistre Lodge care home in Lytham St Annes, where Mr Percival spent the last two years of his life before dying on October 25.

Matron Janet Wareing said: ‘He would talk about the war sometimes. His sort of role has often been forgotten. He would remove the corpses of the aircrew from bombers when they returned full of bullet holes. Then he would try to keep the plane in the air ready for the next mission. It was very harrowing.’


Standing still: The funeral began at 11am on Armistice Day, when Britain stops to remember those who died in war


Pride: Hundreds wanted to express support for the war hero who died last month


His final journey: Mr Percival's coffin is unloaded from its hearse at the crematorium


Honour: A line of cadets queuing up in the rain during the former RAF serviceman's funeral ceremony

Group Captain Bob Kemp of the RAF Benevolent Fund said: ‘Harold Percival served in perhaps the most famous unit of World War Two. It is fitting that he should be given this sort of send-off. It is remarkable.’

Mr Percival, a distant relative of Spencer Perceval – who in 1812 became the only British prime minister to be assassinated – was born in Penge, South-East London.

The only love of his life, Jessie Campbell, is understood to have died of tuberculosis in 1935.

After the war Mr Percival emigrated to Australia, working as a decorator. He returned to Britain and lived in hotels until he moved into the care home where he died.


Read more: Hundreds attend Remembrance Day funeral of Bomber Command veteran | Mail Online
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter (external - login to view) | DailyMail on Facebook (external - login to view)
Last edited by Blackleaf; Nov 12th, 2013 at 07:32 AM..