More service personnel arriving at Harold Percival's funeral in Lytham.
1. This is Sidney Marshall, an RAF flight sergeant who took part in the D-Day landings 70 years ago. He died two weeks ago at his home in St Annes, Lancashire, aged 90.
But Sidney had no immediate family of his own and only a handful of extended family members – leaving funeral directors worried that his funeral at Lytham Park Crematorium on July 4 will be almost empty.
Undertaker Eddie Jacobs told the Blackpool Gazette: “None of his relatives live locally and his wife, Elizabeth, died last year.
“Sid served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War as a flight sergeant in 9 Squadron, as a Mid Upper Gunner on Lancaster Aircraft.
“I am 72 now and can remember when I lived in Crewe as a boy hiding under the table when the bombing raids took place at the nearby Rolls Royce factory.
“Sid was out there protecting us. He is a complete hero in my eyes.
“He should get recognition for what he has done. Can you imagine as a 21-year-old taking off in a Lancaster loaded with fuel and 2,000lbs of bombs? It does not bear thinking about.”
Sidney’s nephew and nieces will be attending the funeral, but his two brothers and four sisters are too frail to make the trip.
2. Marshall flew 28 sorties during the Second World War and won the Distinguished Flying Medal for incredible bravery and skill under fire.
As well as D-Day, he was involved in the attack which sank the mighty German battleship, the Tirpitz.
During one raid over Bergen his plane was attacked by five enemy fighters and from his mid upper gunner position Sidney shot all five down.
3. This is this full citation for being given the Distinguished Flying Medal, on November 6, 1945.
This N.C.O. has completed 28 sorties as mid-upper gunner. These sorties have included in addition to heavily defended targets in Germany, a number of targets involving long flights through areas defended by enemy fighters. On one occasion (daylight attack on Bergen on 12 January 1945) on recrossing the Norwegian coast after the target had been attacked, his aircraft was engaged by five F.W.190s.
Following an attack in formation, the enemy aircraft broke away and then commenced a series of attacks,singly and in pairs. Flight Sergeant Marshall, in conjunction with the rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Riches, opened up accurate fire on the enemy aircraft and gave his captain such good advice on his combat manoeuvres that the fighters were prevented from pressing home their attacks.
After the combat had been in progress some time,the starboard outer engine was hit and began smoking. At first, the engine was not feathered,so that Flight Sergeant Marshall’s turret would remain operative for as long as possible, but it subsequently caught fire and had to be feathered.
Although this N.C.O.’s turret was now out of action, he was able to continue to advise his captain in his manoeuvres. Altogether, the combat lasted 32 minutes and there is no doubt that Flight Sergeant Marshall’s coolness and skill greatly contributed to the saving of the aircraft.
On another occasion when detailed for a target near Creil on the night of 4th July 1944, his aircraft was attacked just after leaving the target area by an Me.110. In co-operation with the rear gunner, such accurate fire was brought to bear on the enemy aircraft that it was destroyed on its second attack. Flight Sergeant Marshall has at all times shown the greatest keenness to operate and has proved himself to be a skilful member of a sound operational crew.
For their actions on the sortie to Bergen, the pilot Flight Lieutenant Marshall was awarded an immediate D.F.C. and the rear gunner Flight Sergeant Riches an immediate D.F.M.
4. There is a precedent for this. Last year, hundreds of people turned up to the same crematorium to pay respects to Harold Jellicoe Percivall, another RAF veteran, who died aged 99 with no one to attend his funeral.
5. Pericval’s deeds and the prospect of a deserted funeral went viral on social media – meaning that many locals, including serving and retired servicemen, turned up.
Sidney’s funeral is at Lytham Park Crematorium on 4 July, at 1.30PM.