Harold Jellicoe (“Coe”) Percival died a single man with no friends or family at the age of 99. He was entirely alone. He was a celebrated World War II veteran and bomber commander, and one of the last remaining members of WWII’s Dambusters team.
Harold served as ground crew at 671’s squadron airfield at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. His job was to prepare the aircraft which returned to get ready for the next raids. One of his tasks was to remove the dead bodies of aircrew shot up by the Germans.
Funeral director Eddie Jacobs could not trace any relatives, so he decided that he should try, at least, to boost the congregation at Harold’s funeral which would otherwise have been just his own pall-bearers and rest home staff. Placing the death notice in a local paper he asked for anyone who had armed service connections to try and spare the time to turn up at the funeral.
His published obituary 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.”
Retired police officer Martin Cooper saw the public notice in his local paper, copied it and put it up on Facebook. He was determined to ensure Coe was given a proper send off. He posted online:
“I need a big favor 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.”
The response his plea received was off the charts.
Over 700 of strangers attended this fallen soldier’s funeral. Some traveled hundred’s of miles.
Many were veterans, but there were still countless people who just wanted to make sure this veteran was properly honored. There was a guard of honor for Harold staged by soldiers, sailors, marines and his beloved RAF. Even United States Air Force personnel traveled from their base in Oxford to attend.
Fire and Police outriders ensured the cortege got to the service in time.
The world stepped up and demonstrated that all deserve love in life and in death.
This honored Veteran did not deserve to die alone – and he didn’t. Rest in peace Harold “Coe” Jellicoe.
And thank you for your service.