HUNDREDS of people attended the funeral of a former Royal Marine to ensure he was not buried without mourners.
James ‘Jimmy’ McConnell died last month at the age of 69 at the Bluebell Care Home in Southsea.
Staff there thought they would be the only people at his funeral, as he had no known relatives.
So a call went out across social media websites for anyone from the armed forces family who could turn up to give him a send-off.
And almost 300 people turned up at Milton Cemetery this morning in the bitter cold to say farewell to the man they had never met.
A small procession through the cemetery was led by Royal British Legion standard bearers.
The hearse was accompanied in a procession by flag-bearing motorcyclists from the Royal British Legion Riders Branch.
Reverend Bob Mason conducted the service.
He told The News: ‘I want to say a big thank you to all of those who turned up.
‘Many people had concerns about him being buried with no family present but now they have seen him have a dignified burial.’
Rev Mason told the congregation: ‘The great majority of you who have come here today did not know James McConnell but wanted him to have a dignified farewell.
‘I thank you for that kindness and generosity of spirit.’
Little is known about Mr McConnell’s life or about his career in the armed forces.
He was referred to the Southsea care home by social services and arrived with his green beret, medals and photographs of the Falkland Islands.
He had recently suffered a stroke which affected his ability to speak.
Arthur Bailey, 88, of Hawthorn Crescent in Cosham, was a private who served in several conflicts.
He heard about the funeral and wanted to turn up to show his support.
He said: ‘I heard about it and just wanted to come along.
‘This is what the armed forces family is for.
‘It’s a credit to everyone who turned up.’
Messages urging people to attend Mr McConnell’s funeral had been making their way across social networking sites for the last week.
People took up the plea and circulated it among their contacts on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.