On Veterans Day, an Overseas Tribute to a Fallen Hero of World War II

A newspaper ad prompts hundreds of strangers to honor the death of a former serviceman.

Mourners stand in silence as servicemen salute during the funeral of World War II veteran Harold Percival at Lytham Park Cemetery on Nov. 11, 2013, in Lytham St Annes, England.
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Those on the other side of the Atlantic celebrate Armistice Day, while those in the America observe Veterans Day. But despite the different names the sentiment behind the observances are the same: honoring fallen veterans. And that is exactly what hundreds of people did Monday, in Lancashire, England, when they attended services for a World War II vet they had never met, at the request of a newspaper ad.

Harold Jellicoe Percival, 99, a former World War II airman died Oct. 25, at nursing home in northwest England. Having never married and having no children, the funereal home worried Percival's funeral attendance would be miniscule and placed an ad in the paper asking servicemen and women to attend the services.

[READ: Veterans Day: Events to Honor Military For Service]

"A single man, Harold has no close family who can attend his funeral," the advertisement read. "He served in RAF Bomber Command as ground crew during the Second World War. Any service personnel who can attend his funeral service would be appreciated."

And that was all it took for the request to go viral on Twitter feeds and other social networking websites.

All the hype resulted in hundreds of servicemen, veterans and civilians who showed up to pay their respects to Percival for his service. So many individuals attended the funeral that the church ran out of room and the majority of the visitors stood outside in the rain. The BBC estimated around 500 people in attendance.

Andrew Coyler-Worrsall, Percival's nephew, told BBC the number of people in attendance was "just remarkable."

[ALSO: Understanding the Civilian-Military Divide on Veterans Day]

"He was a quiet man, he was an ordinary man who did his duty and served in the war and to see so many people turn up, it's just overwhelming," Worrsall said.

A two minute silence was observed, marking the anniversary of the armistice of World War I, before the coffin was carried into the crematorium.

"You have come in numbers surpassing anything that was expected," said Rev. Alan Clark, who conducted the services at the funeral. "Not because you knew him, but because each of us has a common humanity."

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