Portsmouth group’s desperate plea for strangers to attend funeral of veteran who died alone

The funeral is similar to that of Jimmy McConnel's last year. Picture: Malcolm Wells
The funeral is similar to that of Jimmy McConnel's last year. Picture: Malcolm Wells
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PORTSMOUTH’S military community is being called upon to attend the funeral of a veteran who is believed to have died without any relatives of close friends.

The plea was issued over Twitter by Ann Williams, of community group the Pompey Pals last night on behalf of the Portsmouth South branch of the Royal British Legion.

The man is Gordon Burgess, of Tipner Lane, Tipner. He is understood to be a former sailor in the Royal Navy.

Ann, who is a part of Pompey in the Community’s Life ‘N’ Chimes project which helps elderly people with Alzheimer’s, said she was touched by the appeal.

‘I saw it on Facebook and I wanted to help,’ she said.

‘I have got a bit of experience in this as I am a social worker for elderly people.

‘I have seen it happen all too frequently – elderly people on their own.

‘It’s just so sad. They have fought for our country and the least we can do is be there for them at the time that they need us the most.’

Mr Burgess is believed to have died last month.

His funeral is due to be held on Friday morning, at Portchester Crematorium, in Upper Cornaway Lane, Fareham.

Bob Beech, chairman of Pompey Pals, said: ‘Sadly these are getting more common.

‘All around the country there are things that pop up on social media where a former member of her majesty’s forces has passed away and has got no family.

‘But I think it’s great that communities come together to remember them.

‘It’s sad to think of anyone dying or living alone.’

A spokeswoman for the crematorium confirmed the funeral service will be taking place at 9.30am, in the south chapel.

There is no limit on numbers attending the commemoration.

However, she said that is a large amount of people came, provisions would be made to accommodate them at the crematorium.

Mr Beech is now urging the community of Portsmouth to get behind the appeal.

He added: ‘Portsmouth is a huge military city, whether that’s people who have served or people whose family members have served.

‘So we always group together.

‘If people have got time, which I know can be difficult because it’s such short notice, it would be great if they could come along and show their support.’

In 2013 hundreds of people attended the funeral of a former Royal Marine James ‘Jimmy’ McConnell following a similar appeal.

The 69-year-old died in January 2013, aged 69, at the Bluebell Care Home in Southsea.

He didn’t have any relatives and after a plea went out on Facebook, nearly 300 people turned out to give him a send-off.