HUNDREDS of strangers flocked to give a 101-year-old D-Day veteran the send-off he deserved after an appeal online went viral.
Former Royal Engineer Reg Tegg risked his life clearing Nazi minefields throughout the Second World War and was part of the first wave to land on Gold Beach during the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
But the grandfather-of-three died last month with no friends and only a handful of family remaining, prompting a desperate plea for people to attend his funeral.
And today about 250 people from across the country answered the call to arms to honour the ‘quiet hero’ from Bishop’s Waltham.
Mr Tegg’s nephew, Martin Oakes, was blown away by the swell of support, which saw veterans and serving personnel from all wings of the military providing a guard of honour.
The 55-year-old, who is a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and based at HMS Sultan in Gosport, said: ‘This was totally unexpected. We’re a very small family and uncle Reg has clearly outlived all his friends. It’s an overwhelming response.’
Mr Tegg's daughter, Mandy, said: ‘My dad was a quiet family man and until recently I did not realise what he went through during his active service.
‘A lot of people have called my dad a quiet hero – we are learning he really was.’
The appeal was sent out by Mark Stevens, head of the Solent and District Branch of the Royal Engineers.
The Afghanistan and Iraq veteran was ‘overjoyed’ by the response and said: ‘Reggie was absolutely extraordinary.
‘He was a very quiet, shy gentleman but he led an amazing life.
‘He was at Dunkirk where he was evacuated in a tiny French fishing boat he then served in North Africa, he was involved in the invasion of Sicily and Italy and then the D-Day landings.
‘His role in was to clear mines so it was safe for the infantry – it's just utterly amazing that he managed to survive all of those actions.’
With the Union flag draped over his casket, Mr Tegg was escorted into Portchester by a team of standard bearers and a bagpiper, who played Highland Laddie.
Dozens packed into the crematorium where tributes were read, including a poem written by Edward Martin in response to the Facebook appeal.
Buglers from the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth performed the Last Post and Reveille, as military personnel saluted Mr Tegg for the final time.
Among those paying their respects was Jim Wilson, who served in the Royal Engineers and had both his legs blown off in Afghanistan in 2011.
The 37-year-old, of New Milton near Bournemouth, said: ‘Every war is different. I went to Afghanistan and got blown up. But it was a different era.
‘What Reg did was amazing. He must have been scared. But he just got his head down and did it.’
Mr Tegg was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest medal for valour, for his role on D-Day.
Reg was demobbed from the army in 1946 and worked as a gardener until he retired. He died at his care home in Sarisbury Green on September 22.
He leaves his daughter Mandy, three grandchildren, Ashley, 22, Nathan, 21, and Marshall, 16, wife Mary, 86, and nephew Martin.