Hundreds pledge to attend war hero’s funeral

Harold Percival
Harold Percival

This is the Fylde war hero whose death has sparked a national outpouring of sympathy after it was revealed he has no immediate family to attend his funeral.

Harold Jellicoe “Coe” Percival, who served as part of Bomber Command during the legendary Dam Busters raids in the Second World War, died at a St Annes nursing home last month. He was 99.

Obituary notice from the LSE

Obituary notice from the LSE

But, as he has no immediate family nearby, it was feared few people would turn up to his funeral which will poignantly be held on Armistice Day at 11am on Monday, November 11, in Lytham.

Mr Percival was today described as a “bit of a loner” and an ”independent man” who lived almost all of his life on his own.

After his story appeared on social networks and in today’s Gazette hundreds of people - many ex-service personnel - have pledged to attend his funeral.

Sgt Rick Clement who was badly injured while serving in Afghanistan, last night, took to Facebook and Twitter after reading an obituary notice in The Gazette’s sister paper the Lytham St Annes Express.

Sgt Rick Clement

Sgt Rick Clement

The notice read: “A single man, Harold has no close family who can attend his funeral.

“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.”

Sgt Clement (pictured), who lost both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010, said on social networking site Facebook: “I need a big favour from any military or ex-serving members. This fallen soldier at 99-years-old is having a funeral on Monday and he has no family to attend.

“If you’re in the area give him the send off he deserves. This guy needs and deserves your help.”

Former Conservative Party Leader Iain Duncan Smith and comedian Jason Manford were among the thousands who have now Tweeted their support.

Mr Percival’s nephew David Worsell said he was “immensely proud” of his uncle who was part of the crew which led the legendary Dam Dusters raids.

Mr Worsell, who lives on the south coast, today told The Gazette: “He served his country with great distinction. I am personally immensely proud of him. He spoke about his work with Bomber Command and the legendary Dam Busters squadron, and meeting Guy Gibson, who led the raid in 1943. He worked in Lincolnshire and Wiltshire, I believe, checking instruments and equipment before they took off.

“He was a very proud person, but also very private. I didn’t know him too well until later in his life and I hope many people can attend his funeral.”

Mr Percival was born in Penge, South London in 1914.

Mr Worsell revealed his uncle came to live the later years of his life on the Fylde coast after a period of travelling.

He had no children, was never married and it is believed moved from hotel to hotel, having lived in Australia for much of his life after the end of the war in 1945.

Mr Worsell added: “One of his great regrets was that he left the RAF. He never stayed in one place for very long and didn’t really say an awful lot about his experiences. As far as I know, he never really had any friends and was a bit of a loner.”

Last year, he moved into the Alistre Lodge Care Home, in St Annes Road East, St Annes after suffering a fractured hip in a fall.

The home’s matron, Janet Wareing said: “He came to us in April last year. He was very independent and liked to do his own thing.

“He kept himself to himself really - as long as he had a cup of tea he was happy. He was strong-willed and had his own mind. He often spoke about being part of the Dam Busters with great pride.

“He died on October 25. He had stopped eating. I think he had given up, so to speak.”

The funeral service will be held at Lytham Park Crematorium at 11am on Monday.