Funeral plea for heroic D-Day airman

Pictures:Bill Johnson'Funeral of Harold Percival at Lytham Crematorium.
Pictures:Bill Johnson'Funeral of Harold Percival at Lytham Crematorium.
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Will you help to honour the memory of a Fylde coast war hero?

Seven months ago Gazette readers turned out in their hundreds to attend the funeral of a serviceman who passed away with no family living locally.

Now an undertaker at a Fylde funeral directors has made an impassioned plea for mourners to attend the funeral of a former RAF serviceman who took part in the D-Day landings.

Sidney Marshall, 90, died at home in Caryl Road, St Annes, on June 16.

The former Rear Gunnerhas few relatives, if any, to attend his service.

St Annes undertaker Eddie Jacobs is now asking for Armed Forces personnel – past and present – together with members of the public, to attend Mr Marshall’s funeral at Lytham Park Crematorium on Friday, July 4.

Mr Jacobs said: “Sid is survived by elderly brothers and sisters but has no immediate family of his own.

“None of his relatives live locally and his wife, Elizabeth, died last year.

“Sid served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War as a flight sergeant in 9 Squadron, as a Mid Upper Gunner on Lancaster Aircraft.

“I am 72 now and can remember when I lived in Crewe as a boy hiding under the table when the bombing raids took place at the nearby Rolls Royce factory.

“Sid was out there protecting us. He is a complete hero in my eyes.

“He should get recognition for what he has done. Can you imagine as a 21-year-old taking off in a Lancaster loaded with fuel and 2,000lbs of bombs? It does not bear thinking about.”

The story has echoes of last year’s call to honour Harold Jellicoe Percival, whose funeral was attended by more than 500 people on Remembrance Day at Lytham Crematorium.

His story, following an obituary notice placed in the Lytham St Annes Express, created headlines around the world stretching from the Fylde coast to New Zealand, Los Angeles and the Caribbean.

The sad tale of the former RAF man, who died at Alistre Nursing Home in St Annes, captured the hearts of many, none more so than Blackpool soldier Sgt Rick Clement, who ‘Tweeted’ an image of the notice which went ‘viral’ on Twitter.

Sgt Clement who suffered devastating injuries after stepping on an explosive device planted by insurgents in Afghanistan, led the calls for the Fylde coast to help celebrate the life of the former airman who died with no immediate family around to attend his funeral - poignantly held on Armistice Day.

The result was a story which went around the world and resulted in more than 500 people turning out to mark Mr Percival’s passing, despite many never knowing him.

Sgt Rick Clement said he hoped a similar number of people would attend Mr Marshall’s funeral. He added: “The funeral parlour contacted me and gave me a lot of information about the medals he has won.

“It’s very important to remember any serviceman but this guy seems to be a little bit of a legend. I know it’s Armed Forces Week this week and it’s another poignant time for many. I have been speaking to a few of my regiment already about this. I just want to get as many people down there as possible.”

Mr Jacobs said the funeral was moved to July 4, Independence Day, to recognise Mr Marshall’s efforts in preserving the UK’s freedom.

The service will be held at Lytham Park Crematorium at 1.30pm.

Donations can be made to the RAF Benevolent Fund, c/o Roland L.Whitehead and Daughter at the funeral directors in East Bank Road, St Annes, FY8 1ND.

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