“He would be so proud to get the send off he wanted.”
Those were the words of the family of 95-year-old poppy seller Frank Whyman as fellow war veterans stood alongside his family and friends to celebrate his life.
The great-grandfather, from Seaham, had wanted to attend the recent Armistice and Remembrance Day services, but died just days before.
His children, Keith, Alan and Julie, asked mourners to wear poppies for his funeral, held at Christ Church, with flags from the Sunderland branch of the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Royal British Legion’s branch flags for the Seaham, Murton and Brandon and District groups offering him a guard of honour.
David McKenna, who was a colour sergeant in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, played bagpipes as Frank, who was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, performing his favourite song, The Dark Isle, which he came to love through his time in the Army during the Second World War.
Frank lost brother Arthur in the conflict as he crossed the Rhine in the final days of action, with Vane Tempest pitman Frank making the journey several times to his grave in the Reichwald Forest.
He’s one of the last of his generation, one of the real Tommies.David McKenna
Mr McKenna, who leads the Seaham-based Remember Them Fund, said: “He’s one of the last of his generation, one of the real Tommies.
“It’s an honour to be here today and it’s been a real honour to have known him.
“He never missed a parade or a service for Armed Forces Day.”
Within the service, Julie, 55, and her daughter Samira, 23, led the tributes.
Julie said: “Thank you so much for coming to share Dad’s life with us. “He would be so proud today and we will hopefully give him the send off he would have wanted.”
Lay minister, deputy standard bearer and poppy appeal organiser for Seaham Elizabeth Armes took the service.
She spoke of his Army career, which took him to El Alamein in Egypt, Italy and Palestine, and his love for his late wife Edna, they joy their children gave them, and his generosity, as well as his passion for dancing and music.
The moment he met and spoke to the Queen at a Buckingham Palace garden party, dressed in the kilt of his regiment’s tartan, was also recalled, which he said was the proudest moment of his life after his wedding day.
“His support and care for Edna and their children was always in abundance and his family say they were very fortunate to have had such a wonderful father and mother.
“Frank will be greatly missed by his friends and family.”
A collection was held at the church for the Royal British Legion.
Frank left Keith, 66, and Alan, 64, Keith’s wife Marion, Alan’s wife Christine, 57, Alan’s son Paul, 45, and his stepchildren Adele, 32, and Tony, 30, and Paul’s children Jamie, 26, and Brandon, 19, Julie’s husband Kaddour Bouazza Maro, 61, and their children Samira, and Adam, 21.
Following the service, Frank was taken to a cremation in Durham, with a gathering held at New Seaham Conservative Club.