The small and scattered family of a soldier has made an emotional plea for the town’s residents to come together to give him a fitting send-off.
Ken Crossley, who served his country on the front line in World War Two, died recently aged 94 and his funeral is in Leigh next week.
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Ken lived in Leigh and Atherton and the final memorial service for him is at St Joseph’s Church and then at Leigh Cemetery.
His family, though, is very concerned there will be a lack of mourners as his seven siblings are all deceased and other family members live a long way away or are not fit enough to get to the borough.
Leigh-based military charity Shoulder to Soldier, therefore, has been alerted to the news of Ken’s death after his relatives desperately appealed for help swelling the funeral congregation to the Royal British Legion and Royal Artillery Association.
The organisation is now calling on patriotic Leythers to fill the church and make Ken’s final journey an affair on an appropriate scale.
Shoulder to Soldier founder Linda Fisher said: “Ken was an inspirational man and we owe this generation so much.
“We are trying to get as many veterans as possible there and his relatives just want a big turn-out.
“Wouldn’t it be great if Leigh could get lots of people to turn up and pay tribute to Ken? It would be fitting and appropriate.
“A lot of people forget about veterans after Remembrance Day but this keeps it in the headlines. For us Remembrance is every day, it’s part of what we are about.”
Born in Leigh, Ken had six brothers and a sister, all of whom have sadly died. Two of them joined him in the forces.
He first served in the home guard and was drafted into the Royal Artillery in 1943 and a driver for guns.
He took part in the Normandy landings and travelled through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany before being posted to India at the end of the war.
His time in the services lasted long after VE and VJ days in 1945 as he did not return to civilian life until June 1947 when he was demobbed in York.
His relatives and Shoulder to Soldier both spoke of how he remembered his service number throughout his long life and was immensely proud of having been a gunner.
Military organisations are ensuring they will be represented properly at his funeral, with standards from the Royal British Legion and Royal Artillery Association planned to be there and a bugler set to play.
Ms Fisher is also hoping enough former service personnel will be there to form a guard of honour as his coffin enters church.
Ken was widowed three times during his life, with his final wife Betty dying five years ago. After tying the knot with Betty he moved to Lovers Lane in Atherton, having previously spent his life in Leigh.
Ken Crossley’s funeral is at St Joseph’s Church in Leigh at 2pm on Tuesday, December 18. There will also be a service at Leigh Cemetery afterwards.