Strangers turn out for British ex-serviceman's funeral

Hundreds of strangers attended the funeral of a former British royal marine on Thursday in response to a Facebook and Twitter appeal launched to ensure he would not be buried without mourners.

James McConnell died in a care home last month aged 69 or 70 without any family and with only a handful of friends and the local vicar to mark his passing.

Determined to give him a proper send-off, Reverend Bob Mason put out an appeal through the Royal Marines Association for anyone who might have known McConnell, which spread the word through social networking sites.

In response, several hundred people turned up to Thursday's funeral at Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth on the southern English coast, including Royal British Legion standard bearers and two buglers playing the Last Post.

Reverend Mason told the congregation: "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."

Richie Puttock, operations manager for the Royal Marines Association, said the appeal had "pricked the consciences" of many serving and former marines who were determined to ensure a former comrade in arms was buried with respect.

"Every other royal marine is your brother and will be until the day you die. So although he didn't have blood family, that didn't mean he didn't have another family," Puttock told AFP.

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