MACCLESFIELD Crematorium was not big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to pay their respects to a Second World War veteran this morning.

Harry Wheeler, who lived in Lacey Green before moving to a nursing home in Macclesfield two years ago, had no members of family to mourn him following his death on Monday, May 8, aged 96.

But following a campaign by his friends, hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects from 10.40am on Thursday, May 18.

Guardian columnist Vic Barlow attended the service, and was left feeling ‘completely blown away’.

“It was stunning – absolutely stunning,” he said.

“The service was amazing, I’ve never been to anything like it, and this all came from a friend saying he had no one to go his funeral.

“I thought there might be a decent crowd but when I got there the crematorium was full, around twice as many people were stood outside and couldn’t get in.

“The weather had been forecast for rain too, but we got brilliant sunshine.”

Residents from Wilmslow and elsewhere turned out to pay their respects, including leading figures at Cheshire East Council.

Harry’s hearse was accompanied by the Royal Marine Band, a piper in full dress, and a bugler who played the Last Post and Reveille.

“When you heard the bugler play the Last Post, which has been played so many times around the world after conflicts, I felt particularly emotional,” Vic added.

“There were so many medals on show you would have thought it was Winston Churchill’s funeral.

“He was carried in a majestic hearse by an immaculate horse, and it was a tremendous send off.

“These people didn’t know who he was, they were there simply to pay their respects to one of the last surviving Second World War veterans.”

Friend Eileen Jeffers also attended the service.

"It was absolutely perfect," she told the Guardian.

"There must have been 300 or 400 people there, and there was a beautiful eulogy.

"People didn't know him but they came down in their droves – nothing could have been better.

"Harry got the fitting send off he absolutely deserved."