A Doncaster war veteran was given a true hero’s send-off, as hundreds of servicemen, women and residents turned out to pay their respects.
Despite living a full life, surrounded by loved ones, when World War Two veteran Eric Gill died last month aged 99 there were fears his funeral would be poorly attended due to members of his family suffering from illness and living thousands of miles away.
This prompted his friend and carer Gwen Burrows and The Star to call on people across the borough to attend Mr Gill’s funeral as a mark of respect to the beloved grandad, and to other members of his generation, who bravely risked their lives for their country.
And the town certainly did Mr Gill proud as more than 450 people lined up outside Rose Hill crematorium for the moving service yesterday. Servicemen from the 49th Division King’s Own Young Light Infantry and the Market Garden Veterans’ Association paid tribute to Mr Gill, who was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French government earlier this year, with a Guard of Honour.
In a touching eulogy delivered by Minister Paul Read, Mr Gill was described as a ‘smartly-dressed, handsome and self-effacing gentleman’ who was loved by many.
He said: “Eric lived a full life, he lived a happy life.”
Chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, Gary Stapleton, who helped to organise the funeral arrangements, said he was overwhelmed by the turnout.
He said: “The day and the service went fantastically well, I really don’t think we could have asked for a better send-off for Eric.
“People came from all across the country, some even from Scotland to attend, that’s how much Eric – and what he represented – meant to people.”
A number of Doncaster’s dignataries were also in attendance, including Edlington Mayor Georgina Mullis and Civic Mayor and Doncaster’s veterans’ champion, Paul Wray.
Mr Wray said: “It was a great turnout, and I was pleased to see so many attend, I think it’s very important that we honoured this gentleman in a fitting way.”
Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint and Edlington Coun Phil Cole were also among those in attendance.