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Hundreds attend London funeral for second world war veteran Peter Brown

Hundred of mourners gathered for the funeral of a second world war veteran to pay their respects to an “inspiration” who had “selflessly” dedicated his life to Britain.

Peter Brown, a retired flight sergeant who was born in Jamaica, died alone aged 96 in his home in Maida Vale, west London.

The original funeral service had been due to take place in a 140-capacity chapel in March. However, owingto the high demand of people wanting to pay their respects to Brown, Westminster city council worked with the RAF and the Ministry of Defence to give him a bigger sendoff.

Brown was born in 1926 and is believed to have enlisted in the armed forces when he was 17, in 1943. He was trained as a wireless operator and air gunner, according to the RAF, and took part in missions in Palestine, Tripoli, Egypt and Malta before leaving the forces in 1950. He was passionate about cricket and, for 30 years until 2016, was a member of Marylebone Cricket Club.

Peter Brown joined the RAF in 1943. Photograph: Westminster Council/AP

The funeral took place at St Clement Danes Church in central London, the official church for the RAF, with a capacity of up to 600 people. Brown’s coffin was draped with a union flag and adorned with an RAF hat, a spray of flowers and his war medals.

Brooke Alexander, a distant cousin, flew to London from Jamaica for the service, having been tracked down by genealogists who were investigating Brown’s life.

Don Simon, who served in the Royal Navy, said he had attended the funeral to respect and honour Brown, and to say thank you.

“I’m here to pay my respects to Sgt Peter Brown. He’s done the ultimate thing in my view, he served his country during a time of great difficulty during the war. And for him to pass away unnoticed was just unacceptable.

“The family he has is all of us from the armed services who will forever remember him, and forever respect the time that he gave during his service.”

Dionne John, who was involved in organising the funeral and started a fundraising appeal that raised more than £3,000 towards it said she was “devastated” when she heard Brown had died alone.

“It was devastating because no one should leave this place on their own without anyone marking them. So that was very important us, to be able to contribute to and mark his end,” she said.

The Westminster city council leader, Adam Hug, said: “The national response to Peter Brown’s story has been overwhelming.

“The details of his life and subsequent search for relatives have truly captured the public imagination and moved people around the world.

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“Our priority has always been to ensure Mr Brown receives a fitting, dignified sendoff which allows those wishing to pay their respects the opportunity to do so.

“We are grateful to the RAF who have stepped in and provided a perfect venue to reflect Peter’s military service.

“We will continue to work with the RAF, community groups and wellwishers to ensure the service represents the many aspects of Mr Brown’s life.”

An RAF spokesperson said: “Flight Sgt Brown is an example of the selfless contribution of all Commonwealth personnel who have served throughout the RAF’s history.

“We should never forget their sacrifices which have defended our freedom and kept us safe.”

Donald Campbell, the founder and director of the Forgotten Generations and who served in the RAF for 36 years, said the funeral service was a celebratory day for Brown.

“We don’t want any more people like Peter Brown to pass alone,” Campbell says. “Today is a celebratory day for Peter Brown, and the people that are here. I hope we all take away a bit of Peter Brown with us, so his life story becomes a legacy, which is very important. We want all the Peter Browns out there to be known by us, so we can meet them, bring them forward and archive their stories”.

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