WATCH: Friends and strangers rally to give a final salute to popular Gosport veteran
MOVING tributes have been paid to a '˜larger-than-life' Royal Navy veteran after scores of people answered a plea to attend his funeral.
Raymond ‘Danny’ Daniels was buried today during an emotional service at Ann Hill’s cemetery in Gosport.
He is believed to have no remaining family, which fuelled fears the 72-year-old would face a ‘paupers’ burial.
But a determined campaign by friends, backed by The News, saw the proud navy veteran being given the final salute he deserved.
Escorted into the cemetery by a squad of Royal British Legion Riders Branch, waving a White Ensign, Mr Daniels had a Union flag draped across his casket.
Dozens of mourners, from friends to complete strangers and fellow veterans, joined a procession to Mr Daniels’ burial plot at the top end of the Gosport cemetery.
Cambridgeshire-based Bugler Anthony Bishop played a rendition of The Last Post as Mr Daniels’ hearse arrived.
The popular veteran’s casket was then carefully lowered into his grave before celebrant, Lisa Lane – who volunteered for the ceremony – gave an emotional speech.
The morning was organised by Raymond’s friend, Tammy Kent, a barmaid at the Fox Tavern pub where Mr Daniels was a regular.
She said: ‘I didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping that there were going to be lots of people here. As soon as I pulled up I was just so relieved.
‘I was happy that everyone was here. We’re all here for the same reason: to give our Danny a cheeky send-off the cheeky man deserves.’
Tammy added: ‘The Fox has lost one of its real characters. We’re definitely disappointed. It’s just a shame that he didn’t spread himself around a bit more because Gosport would have had a good few laughs.’
Mr Daniels died on February 15, collapsing at his home in Hamlet Way, Gosport, on his way to a friend’s funeral.
Mourners at his funeral heard that he was born on November 24, 1946 and lived in Salford, near Manchester.
Although details of his life were scant, Mr Daniels is understood to have been in the Royal Navy, serving in HMS Fearless as a Leading Steward between 1981 and 1984 and then HMS Ark Royal.
Lisa said the service was an emotional one for her to be a part of. She added: ‘I’ve got navy in my family and I didn’t want him to have a burial without any recognition at all. He served our country and he deserved to have a fitting send-off.’
Among those in attendance included fellow veterans, who saluted Mr Daniels.
Peter Hunt, 62, of Gosport knew Danny for about 10 years. The retired Royal Marine and Falklands veteran said: ‘He was a top man. He enjoyed life to the full. He was larger than life.’
Royal Navy veterans Darren Lawbuary, 52, and Ian Lewis, 53, travelled from Portsmouth to be at the funeral. Although neither of the retired sailors knew Danny, they said they were touched by Tammy’s appeal.
Darren, a former Chief Petty Officer who served in the forces for 25 years, said: ‘I like attending veterans’ funerals that have no family present. I don’t like to see anyone without any family so anything I can do to help is so important.’
He praised the appeal by the Fox Tavern, adding: ‘It’s very worthwhile and sadly necessary.’
Ian said: ‘It’s important to be here. This man has no family and served his career in the navy. He would have harked on about his service days, we all do. It is a big family in the navy – we’re shipmates forever.’
Fareham guitarist Kenny Alexander finished the service with a performance of Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over The World, one of Mr Daniels’ favourite tunes.
A fundraiser has since been launched to pay for a memorial bench in Mr Daniels’ honour to be placed outside the Fox. It has raised more than £200.