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Old soldier's legacy of the realities of war

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 20, 2012

  • Holly and Jane Madden, grand-daughter and daughter of Ronald Brown, right, who was injured while serving with the East Yorkshire Regiment

  • The shrapnel in Mr Brown's body after he was injured by a wartime bomb – the tangled metal was left after his body was cremated Pictures: Matt Austin

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For more than 60 years Ronald Brown carried an assortment of painful reminders of the Second World War inside him.

They were bomb fragments embedded in his leg after he stepped on a booby trap explosive device.

Now that very shrapnel has been passed on to the proud family of Mr Brown, 94, who died last week, to serve as an everlasting reminder of a brave soldier's war service.

It had rested inside Mr Brown ever since the Second World War when, as a young soldier in the East Yorkshire Regiment, he stepped on a booby trap and was seriously injured, his leg peppered with the red-hot fragments.

Under the medical conditions of the day it was thought safer to leave the shrapnel in his body rather than try to remove it. Now the shrapnel has finally been removed, carefully sifted from Mr Brown's ashes after his cremation at the Exeter and Devon Crematorium.

His granddaughter Holly Madden, of Old Vicarage Road, St Thomas, said: "Grandfather never spoke much about the war, but when we were very young he used to tells us not to sit on that knee because of the wound.

"He would travel overseas, to Australia and America and he was always setting off the 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 there was so much.

"It had been in him all that time, around 70 years. 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. It is more than a memory, it was physical thing every day but he never once complained about it. I suppose it is a bitter-sweet memory for us because it symbolises everything he did and how he suffered."

Mr Brown, a tax inspector, moved to Exeter, with his wife, Gwendoline, more than 40 years ago.

Mrs Madden, one of five grandchildren, said her grandfather had kept a detailed journal of his wartime experiences, good and bad – including his claim to have introduced the English delicacy of egg and chips to an unsuspecting French populace. But he also spoke of how from the 900 original members of his regiment, only 29 came home after the war.

Mrs Madden said: "He had a good life and did a lot in his time. We're all so proud of him."

She said it was hoped that either Mr Brown's old regiment or the Imperial War Museum would take on the journal.

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