Funeral held for 'last' known Royal Navy Dunkirk veteran who was 'Pompey boy through and through'

  • Lawrence Churcher speaking to ITV Meridian in 2019

Royal Navy sailors provided a guard of honour at the funeral of 102-year-old Lawrence Churcher, who is believed to have been the last naval Dunkirk veteran.

Mr Churcher, who was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, died earlier this month at a care home nearby Fareham just days short of his 103rd birthday, said the Project 71 charity, which supports Second World War veterans.

Amid pouring rain, the veteran’s coffin, draped in a Union Jack with his Navy cap on top, was carried by pallbearers from the Royal Navy into Portchester Crematorium for a private funeral service attended by family and friends.

Two lines of Royal Navy sailors stood as guard as the hearse arrived. Credit: ITV Meridian

Mr Churcher, who was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, was posted to HMS Eagle at the start of the war and landed in France in May 1940 to help supply ammunition to the frontlines and was posted to a railhead outside Dunkirk.

Lieutenant Commander Calvin Shenton said: “We met through Age UK and became friends for the past four years, he was a Pompey boy through and through. It's an honour to know such a great man.”

“He went to the beach with about 70,000 other servicemen and by chance bumped into his two brothers in the Hampshire regiment. They all came home together and all three went on to survive the war. It was something he was really proud of and rightfully so.”

“He encompassed everything good about the Navy. He was humble and courageous, but most of all encompassed a sense of fun during adversity.

Lieutenant Commander Calvin Shenton said: "He was a member of the Royal Navy family and it’s right that we’ve come to honour him today." Credit: ITV News Meridian

The charity Project 71, which said Mr Churcher is thought to have been the last known naval veteran of the evacuation, previously posted on Facebook: "A truly remarkableman, loved and respected by all who knew him.

"Stand down Lawrence, your duty is done. It has been an honour to have known you.”

Mr Churcher, then 99, and his daughter Moira at a ceremony in 2020 to commemorate the evacuation from Dunkirk Credit: Ministry of Defence/PA

Mr Churcher is reported to have said: “When my brothers found me, I just felt relief.

“There were so many soldiers there and continuous aircraft dropping bombs and strafing us. I had so many things on my mind until I got on board our ship.

“One fella leaned on my shoulder, gave a sigh of relief and said, ‘Thank God we’ve got a Navy’, and that sort of churned it up inside of me. We knew we had to get those soldiers back from Dunkirk.”

Mr Churcher went on to serve in the Mediterranean, at D-Day and ended the war in the Far East.

He later became a football referee and became Portsmouth FC’s oldest fan.

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