Harold Jellicoe Percival, a member of RAF bomber command in the second world war, died aged 99 with no close family.
A funeral company’s calls to honour a late war hero have been embraced by members of themilitary and general public after an RAF veteran died with no close friends or relatives.
Harold Jellicoe Percival, a distant relative of Spencer Perceval – the only British prime minister to be assassinated – helped with the famous Dambusters raids during thesecond world war.
He died last month aged 99 in a nursing home and his funeral service will be held at 11am on Armistice Day.
Percival, who served as ground crew with RAF Bomber Command, never married, had no children and has no close family members able to attend the service at the Lytham Park Crematorium, Lytham St Annes, in Lancashire.
His death prompted Roland L Whitehead and Daughter funeral directors to make appeals in a local newspaper – further publicised on social media – for any armed service personnel past and present to attend Percival’s funeral. With all the coverage generated, hundreds are now expected to attend.
Those involved in organising the funeral say they have been contacted by veterans’ groups and other military supporters keen to acknowledge Percival’s career. Percival’s plight has been highlighted in local newspapers and Twitter.
Edmund Jacobs, of Roland L Whitehead and Daughter, said: “We’re hoping a few faces will turn up and show their support for a war hero. It doesn’t sit well with me that somebody who has served their country can be forgotten about, that his service can go un-noted. I am sure he would have had a few stories to tell.”
Percival was one of four siblings but lived a “nomadic lifestyle” after leaving the RAF at the end of the war. His nephew, David Worsell, said: “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.”
Percival lived in Penge, south London, before joining the RAF. He was based in the north-west of England and became part of the ground crew which helped with the Dambusters, the squadron which was initially formed to destroy dams in the Ruhr valley in Nazi Germany.
After working in Australia, he later retired to England and lived at the Alistre Lodge nursing and care home, in Lytham St Annes.
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.
Matron Janet Wareing said: “Harold was a lovely character, very strong-willed and independent. He was quite a private man, and he loved reading his Daily Telegraph every morning.
“We have already been contacted by military veterans who are intending to come, even though they have never met him.
“We’ve been told one group is looking to bring around 200 people to the service, which would be fantastic.”
Davis Boothman, secretary for the RAF Association Layland branch, said he would ring friends and colleagues in an effort to gain additional support. He said: “We normally do try and make a showing at these times. It is important that we remember people like Harold – they are part of us.”
Relative Worsell is unable to attend the service, but his son – Percival’s great nephew – will represent the family. 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 service takes place at 11am on Monday, at Lytham Park crematorium.
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