HUNDREDS of people will attend the funeral of a man they never met to ensure the former Royal Marine is not buried without mourners.
James ‘Jimmy’ McConnell died of a chest infection after living out his last days at the Bluebell Care Home in Southsea.
With no known relatives to give him a good send-off, he faced a lonely burial and care home staff feared the ex-marine would be buried with nobody but them in attendance.
But after a rallying cry went up around the armed forces community, hundreds of people are now expected to turn up.
Ian Smith, one of the directors of the Bluebell Care Home, said: ‘It makes you proud to be British.
‘I’m an ex-forces man myself, I was in the navy, so I’m passionate about the forces.
‘People in the armed forces go through big events during their lifetimes and deserve a good send-off.
‘If anyone is thinking of coming, don’t rely on other people to turn up, come along yourself and support ex-servicemen like Jimmy.’
Members of various naval associations have pledged to attend along with several other members of the public who want to show their support.
A bugler from the Royal Marines band service, which is based in Portsmouth, is also expected to attend.
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.
Dizzy Page, the activities co-ordinator at the care home, added: ‘Hearing how many people are now going to come is very emotional.
‘We always try to get to the funerals of people who have lived here.
‘But because there wasn’t going to be anyone else at Jimmy’s, we wanted to make sure we would be there to show our pride for the forces.
‘Jimmy was a proud man and he always had a sparkle in his eyes.’
The graveside service will be held at 9.30am on Thursday at the Milton Cemetery, in Milton Road, Portsmouth.
MESSAGES urging people to attend Mr McConnell’s funeral have been making their way across social networking sites.
People have taken up the plea and circulated it among veterans associations and armed forces groups across the internet and websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The burial service will be conducted by the Rev Bob Mason.
Mr Mason said: ‘There has been a marvellous response from around the country.
‘There are lots of folks expected there on Thursday.’