The family of a war hero only discovered the full weight of his bravery after his death when his cremation left behind – a huge pile of shrapnel.
Ronald Brown stepped on a land mine while on a mission in France in August 1944.
The blast peppered his left leg with red-hot fragments and he was forced to crawl two miles to safety.
But because of medical conditions of the day it was thought safer to leave shrapnel in his body.
He survived the war but only ever told his family the basic story and said the accident had left him with a ‘bad knee’.
Ronald told loved ones he still had a ‘bullet’ in his leg and asked his grandchildren not to sit on his knee because of the pain it caused.
But when he died last week aged 94 his family had him cremated and were stunned when staff handed them back a big bag of shrapnel.
The bag contained a whopping 6oz of bomb shrapnel that he had been carrying around for 60 years.
Daughter Jane Madden, 55, of Exeter, Devon said her father told her there was a bullet in his knee from the war – never mentioning the pile of fragments.
She said: “I don’t think he ever realised all that was in his leg – it weighed about six ounces.
“He’d said there was a bullet in his leg but I was imagining one romantic piece of metal.
“But when we went to scatter his ashes we asked whether the bullet had been found and they gave us this bag full of metal.
“It’s just macabre really and amazing because he never used to complain about the pain. It just shows how brave he was.”
Ronald, of Exeter, joined the East Yorkshire Regiment at the age of 21 and was a quartermaster when he suffered his injury.
He stepped on the booby trap while on manoeuvres in August 1944, two months after D Day.
Following his death of a chest infection last week workers at Exeter and Devon Crematorium carefully sifted through his ashes and found the metal pieces.
His granddaughter, Holly, 22, said her grandfather “never spoke much about the war”.
She said: “When we were very young he used to tell us not to sit on his knee because of the wound.
“He would travel overseas to Australia and America and he was always setting off scanners as he walked through.
“We always thought it was a bullet in the knee but when the funeral directors gave us this bag of shrapnel they had taken out we were shocked at how much there was.
“We are all very proud of him and what he did for all of us. The bits of metal in him just show how horrible the war was.
“I suppose it’s a bitter-sweet memory for us because it symbolises everything he did and how he suffered.”
After the war grandfather-of-five Ronald became a tax inspector. His wife Gwendoline died 24 years ago.
Holly, one of five grandchildren, said her grandfather kept a journal of his wartime experiences.
In the diary he claims he introduced the British delicacy of egg and chips to people in France.
But he also spoke of how of the 900 original members of his regiment, only 29 came home from the front.
Jane said: “He had a good life and did a lot in his time. We all so proud of him.”
Leave a Reply