Hundreds of people were gathering at an historic central London church on Thursday for the funeral of one of the last black RAF pilots to have fought in the Second World War.
Flight Sergeant Peter Brown died alone aged 96 at his home in Maida Vale, west London, in December last year.
Arrangements have been made to ensure the Lancaster bomber receives a “dignified send-off worthy of his life story” at a service hosted by the RAF.
He had appeared destined for a low-key funeral until a council appeal to trace his relatives was picked up by historians, military researchers, genealogists, community groups and the media.
His neighbour Paul Newman found his body six days before Christmas after becoming worried he was not answering the door while cards that could have helped find his family were cleared out soon after police decided the death was not suspicious, The Sun reported.
Plans to hold the funeral at a 140-capacity chapel in Mortlake, south-west London in March were postponed because of a surge in requests to attend from well-wishers.
Thursday’s service is being held at St Clement Danes Church on The Strand, the central church of the RAF, which can seat 600 mourners.
Relative Brooke Alexander last month told The Sun she hopes to travel more than 4,000 miles from the Jamaican capital Kingston to attend while other relatives told the newspaper they hope to travel there from Florida.
Representatives from Caribbean community organisations and those who helped trace his relatives were also expected to attend.
Mr Brown, who was born in Jamaica in 1926, enlisted in the RAF Volunteer Reserve in September 1943 and became one of the so-called “Pilots of the Caribbean”, carrying out missions as a radio operator and gunner.
He is one of, if not the last, among this group to have passed away.
After the war ended, he re-enlisted in the RAF, working as a signaller before joining civilian life.
Westminster City Council leader Adam Hug said: “The national response to Peter Brown’s story has been overwhelming.
“The details of his life and subsequent search for relatives have truly captured the public imagination and moved people around the world.
“Our priority has always been to ensure Mr Brown receives a fitting, dignified send-off which allows those wishing to pay their respects the opportunity to do so.
“We are grateful to the RAF who have stepped in and provided a perfect venue to reflect Peter’s military service.
“We will continue to work with the RAF, community groups and well-wishers to ensure the service represents the many aspects of Mr Brown’s life.”
An RAF spokesperson said: “Flight Sergeant Brown is an example of the selfless contribution of all Commonwealth personnel who have served throughout the RAF’s history.
“We should never forget their sacrifices which have defended our freedom and kept us safe.”