Thousands expected at funeral of RAF’s last black WW2 veteran due to surge in interest
Organisers of a funeral for one of the last black RAF World War Two veterans are considering arrangements to cater for the huge numbers wanting to pay respects, including a video feed of the service.
A campaign to find Flight Sergeant Peter Brown’s family after he died alone has been so successful mourners answering the call is “already well beyond” Mortlake Crematorium’s 150-capacity, Westminster council said.
Thousands want to attend the service on March 29 after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Mr Brown was an example of the “selfless contribution of all Commonwealth personnel”.
The council are looking at a range of options including having a memorial service at a later date.
Funeral directors urged only those who knew him to attend whilst inviting others to join via an online video link.
Flt Sgt Brown passed away in Maida Vale without known family in December.
Born in Jamaica in 1926, he enlisted in the RAF Volunteer Reserve in September 1943 aged 17.
He trained as a wireless operator and air gunner and was posted to RAF Scampton, home of the Dambusters.
After the war ended he re-enlisted in the RAF, working as a signaller.
A campaign has been launched in The Sun newspaper to find Sgt Brown’s surviving family members so that they can attend his funeral.
A Westminster Council spokesman said on Thursday: “The public response for the call out for relatives and friends of Peter Brown has been both heart-warming and overwhelming.
“His story of valour and modesty has touched many who rightly wish to pay their own tribute for his service to this nation, his adopted home for so many years.
“We would like to thank the media for their fantastic campaign which has given Mr Brown the recognition and respect he deserves.
“From knowing so little about him at the start of this search, the information gathered has led to an incredible outpouring of support.
“Many people have asked to attend the small funeral service, which is already well beyond the capacity of the chapel.
“We are, therefore, currently exploring ways in which Mr Brown can be honoured on a scale befitting of his role, the details of which we hope to announce shortly.”
Lord Mayor of Westminster Hamza Taouzzale said that he would attend the service.
“Mr Brown was one of the many servicemen and women who volunteered from the West Indies and across the former colonies to fight for the UK and the World at a time of its greatest need.
“We owe him – and the many others like him – a huge debt of gratitude. His obvious modesty meant that we did not know of his actions until after his passing.
“Despite extensive efforts, no family members have been traced.
“As the first citizen of Westminster, I shall attend his funeral and I know many others are also taking part. I would ask that you think of him.”
Mr Brown’s neighbour and friend Donna-Lee Tapper said: “It warms my heart that people have responded so kindly to the appeal for Mr Brown. It shows appreciation for all that he did. I think he would be so proud. I certainly am.”