A World War II veteran from Eastbourne who died last year, seemingly with no family, has been featured on TV today (March, 6).

The story of James Knowles – who died aged 91 at Eastbourne District General Hospital in March last year – featured on the BBC’s Heir Hunters programme at 11am.

When he died, the hospital’s chaplain, Reverend Nolan could not find James’s next of kin, and was tasked with organising his funeral.

He appealed to local residents on Facebook to attend the ceremony, and 120 people turned out to pay their respects.

Veterans from the Royal Marines, Royal British Legion, 3rd Battalion Queen’s Regiment and coastguards all attended.

The Government’s legal department advertised James’s case as unclaimed the day after the funeral and it was picked up by professional probate genealogists Finders International.

Daniel Curran of Finders International said:

“Not only did it turn into a great event, there was 120 people I think turned out at the funeral, we then traced the next of kin who were quite distantly connected to James, but obviously pleased to be contacted.”

The heir hunters discovered that James had been a bachelor with no children and it appeared that he had no siblings.

They began looking into cousins, and found Pauline from Herne Bay in Kent – who is a first cousin once removed.

Pauline had previously done her own research into the family tree but hadn’t discovered James.

She said:

“It was totally unexpected.

“We had no idea that James existed.

“It’s very sad to think that none of the family went to his funeral, but what is fantastic is that through Finders International we’ve been put in touch with a lot of our cousins.”

Today’s episode revealed that James’s father George had gone missing when he was young, and the family thought he had died, but he had only moved to London and then the south coast.

It also tells the story of his parents who worked at the Chatsworth Hotel in Eastbourne, and his mystery brother.

Anyone wishing to watch the episode can catch it on BBC iPlayer.

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