‘A very good send-off’ – Facebook appeal prompts dozens to attend funeral of Second World War veteran from Letchworth who died with no immediate family

George McDowell's coffin is carried into the crematorium.

George McDowell's coffin is carried into the crematorium. - Credit: Archant

A solemn tribute was paid today to a Second World War veteran from Letchworth who died with no immediate family, after a Facebook appeal prompted members of the public and armed forces personnel to attend his funeral.

Royal British Legion and other community members form a guard of honour for Royal Navy veteran Georg

Royal British Legion and other community members form a guard of honour for Royal Navy veteran George McDowell, who died with no immediate family to attend his funeral. - Credit: Archant

Kenneth Price of the Royal British Legion’s Letchworth branch posted on the social networking site after the death of 96-year-old former Royal Navy serviceman George McDowell, who had no family except a distant cousin in Canada too frail to make the journey.

The Facebook post was shared through the Comet more than 600 times, with many vowing to attend after it was thought only a handful of carers and Legion members would be present for the service at Vale Crematorium in Luton.

Mr McDowell, who served in convoys during the Second World War, lived for many years on the town’s Jackmans estate.

Diana Johnson and her family, who cared for Mr McDowell for the last 10 years of his life, were involved alongside the Legion in planning the funeral, and were there along with many other locals connected to the forces to pay their respects.

Royal British Legion and other community members form a guard of honour for Royal Navy veteran Georg

Royal British Legion and other community members form a guard of honour for Royal Navy veteran George McDowell, who died with no immediate family to attend his funeral. - Credit: Archant


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Joan Ellis, chairman of the Legion’s Letchworth branch, hailed the response of the community after about 50 people attended, including standard bearers from the Letchworth Royal British Legion and Royal Navy Association, a bugler from the Stevenage Sea Cadets who played the Last Post, and a piper who had heard about the funeral through Facebook.

“The response was fantastic,” said Joan.

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“People said they read about it in the Comet or saw it on Facebook or what have you, so the media does help – and I can’t thank everybody enough who turned out today.

“I knew George from years ago. He was on his own for quite a while after his wife Betty passed, but he was very independent and a private sort of man. He just got on with it.

George McDowell's coffin is carried into the crematorium. Photo: Dick Goodwin

George McDowell's coffin is carried into the crematorium. Photo: Dick Goodwin - Credit: Archant

“His carer, who was there, had become very close to him.”

Kenneth added: “It was a very good send-off. We had some Royal Navy people come over in uniform from Chicksands – not such a simple thing for them as they would have had to get permission.

“The ex-military community has been brilliant, and the civilian community also. A lot of people there didn’t even know him. It was a very good response – good to see on the day, though it was of course very sombre.”

The appeal followed a similar call in March this year, following the death of Second World War veteran William Ronald Bean.

George McDowell's coffin is carried into the crematorium.

George McDowell's coffin is carried into the crematorium. - Credit: Archant

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