June Whitfield funeral: Joanna Lumley fights back tears as stars bid final farewell

The veteran British actress – whose vast array of credits included Terry and June and the Carry On films – died on December 29 aged 93

Some of the biggest stars in the showbiz world have arrived to say their final goodbyes at the funeral of June Whitfield.

The stalwart actress’ Absolutely Fabulous co-stars Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders and Julia Sawalha led mourners at All Hallows Church in Tillington, West Sussex, where flowers and messages have been left in a touching tribute to the Absolutely Fabulous star.

The service featured a selection of her favourite music including the hymn Jerusalem and Get Happy by Judy Garland, and June’s granddaughter read the poem She Is Gone by David Harkin before her actress daughter Suzy Aitchison and her son-in-law delivered a eulogy.

Coronation Street star Roy Hudd, who played undertaker Archie Shuttleworth in the soap between 2002 and 2004, also took to the pulpit. The comedian became firm friends with June after she starred in his Radio 2 show, The News Huddlines.

A spokesman for All Hallows Church told the Chichester Observer said: “I think it’s about remembrance and its a celebration of her life. In a few months time there will be a memorial service which will be more of a celebratory affair.”

The British actress – whose stellar career spanned seven decades – ‘died peacefully’ on December 29 aged 93, her agent confirmed.

Born in Streatham, London, in 1925 June started her career in radio in the 1040s before getting her big break when she replaced Joy Nichols on Muir and Norden radio comedy, Take It From Here, in 1953.

She married husband Tim Aitchison in 1955 and remained together until his death in 2001.

And soon after she moved over to TV, notching up parts in Dixon of Dock Green, The Benny Hill Show and Steptoe and Son, followed by an appearance in Carry On Nurse in 1959 – the first of four Carry On movies she would star in.

June – who was appointed a dame at Buckingham Palace last year for her services to drama and entertainment – scored her first starring role as Rose Garvey in 1966’s Beggar My Neighbour.

But perhaps her most life-changing role was in 1968 sketch show Scott On… where she met her future collaborator Terry Scott.

Their television partnership saw them play husband and wife Terry and June Fletcher in Happy Ever After from 1974 to 78, and again in Terry and June which aired for eight years until 1987.

Meanwhile, her impeccable comedy timing made her a perfect a regular for Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders’ sketch show, French and Saunders, which led to her being cast in Saunders’ Absolutely Fabulous in 1992.

Latterly, she featured in The Royal, Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie’s Marple, New Tricks and Last of the Summer Wine.

As news of her death broke, her Ab Fab co-stars led the tributes with Jennifer Saunders saying she would ‘hugely’ miss her ‘dear friend’.

“It’s so tremendously sad to lose June. I will always be grateful that she agreed to be in Ab Fab,” the actress said.

Everything June did was perfectly measured. She was so loved and I will miss her hugely.”

Joanna Lumley leading the tributes – who played the chain-smoking Patsy Stone – told ITV News, “I am heartbroken to lose such a darling friend and shall never forget her sensational talent, humour and her generosity to us all who had the joy of working with her on Ab Fab.

And June’s on-screen granddaughter Julia Sawalha added, “Thank you damejunewhitfield, for teaching me my craft with such grace and dignity. I always wanted you to know how in awe of you I was, however, you were always far too humble to accept my adoration.

“You were a great source of inspiration to me. Bye-bye Gran.”

And EastEnders’ legend Barbara Windsor made a rare statement amid her Alzheimer’s battle to honour her lifelong friend.