It was standing room only at the funeral of a Scots soldier who served in the Second World War and outlived his family, after an appeal on social media.
Stewart Cooney, 95, served with the Royal Artillery and died in a care home in Leeds last month.
Born in Dundee in 1921, he trained to be a jute weaver at 16. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1943 and fought in Egypt and Sicily, before taking part in the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944.
Hundreds attended his funeral, including Royal British Legion standard bearers, a piper and soldiers from his old regiment. One organiser, Martyn Simpson, said: “We never let a brother go alone.”
Stewart’s long-lost sister was among around 200 mourners who paid homage to the Second World War veteran who died last month.
Helen Walker, 84, made the trip from Manchester with her sons, Scott and Stewart, after Leeds-based tracing agency Finder Monkey got in touch with the care home where Stewart was living to say they would like to help to find his relatives.
The agency managed to find Helen and she received a call telling her that Stewart had died and his funeral was to be held yesterday. Around 200 people, including former servicemen, members of the public and carers, turned out at Rawdon Crematorium in Leeds, West Yorkshire, to pay their final respects to the former gunner.
Stewart’s body was escorted to the crematorium by members of the Royal British Legion Riders.
Around eight bikers led the cortege in through the crematorium’s gates while the rest of the group of 40 riders followed in behind. Members of the Royal British Legion Riders then carried Stewart’s coffin, draped in the Union Flag and topped with his regimental cap, inside the crematorium.
The service lasted just under 40 minutes, with Mr Cooney carried out of the crematorium to Frank Sinatra’s My Way before the funeral party made its way towards Pudsey Cemetery. Three buglers in full army dress regalia also played the Last Post to mark their fallen comrade.
Mr Cooney’s regimental number, 883220, was arranged in a floral display by his graveside alongside a group of funeral bouquets and wreaths of poppies.
Helen said: “I was surprised by the amount of people that came. I was under the impression that there would only be a few people here.
“When I first walked into the crematorium I thought I was in the wrong place because of the amount of people that were there. I’m thankful he had a good send-off and I’m sad I didn’t get to see him before he went. It has been years since I saw him.”
Helen’s said despite writing to Stewart over the years, the pair fell out of touch – she only found out her nephew, Neil, died when she got a call telling her Stewart had passed away on Monday, 18 June.
She added: “He would never tell you anything. I only find out Neil died on Monday.”
Her son Scott, 48, said: “My brother was named after our uncle Stewart. Every time I met him he would make us laugh. He had a very dry sense of humour, but he was thrifty though. I think that was the Scottish side of him. We have a massive family but it has got to the point where he have struggled to stay in touch.”