Former marine James McConnell died last month aged 70
Former marine James McConnell died last month aged 70

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of a complete stranger following a Facebook appeal from a vicar who feared the former Royal Marine would be buried without mourners.

James McConnell, 70, died last month at a care home in Southsea, Hampshire. There were concerns the only people who would attend would be those at the care home, as the 70-year-old did not have any close family.

However, feeling the former marine deserved "a better send-off", Reverend Bob Mason posted a message on Facebook and contacted the Royal Marines Association for help. More than 200 people attended the service at Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth.

The service included a procession by the Royal British Legion, flag-bearing motorcyclists and a performance from the Royal Marines Band of The Last Post.

Speaking to the congregation, Mason said: "The great majority of you who have come here today did not know James McConnell but wanted him to have a dignified farewell.

"I thank you for that kindness and generosity of spirit."

One of those in attendance, Richie Puttock, from the Royal Marines Association, travelled 140 miles to pay his respects to a man he had never met. He said: "I had to ensure he got the send-off he deserved. It was an absolutely fantastic service.

"I think his story pricked the conscience of those who heard it, because nobody wants to think they will have a funeral with nobody there. Wherever he is now, I'm sure he would have been pleased."

Danny Marshall, a former Royal Marine, said: "It was mentioned wrongly that he did not have family: the corps family is bigger and better than most people would know about.

"We are all family and always will be."

The original Facebook message from Mason to the Marines read: "In this day and age it is tragic enough that anyone has to leave this world with no one to mourn their passing, but this man was family and I am sure you will agree deserves a better send off.

"If you can make it to the graveside for that time to pay your respects to a former brother in arms then please try to be there."

McConnell, who was known as Jimmy, arrived at Bluebell Nursing Home in Southsea in December.