An old war veteran from Exeter passed recently, he had suffered from a war wound all his adult life after standing on a landmine in France in 1944. He told the family he had a ‘bullet’ in the knee. He didn’t complain about it, but just asked the grandchildren not to sit on it. After he was cremated the family was given a contaier with the shrapnel in it weigh about 6oz!
The story reported in the Telegraph, then picked by a number of news outlets in the States is one of humility and stoic suffering of that generation and perhaps a small mirror to the whinging we hear from every side today.
His daughter Ms Madden of Exeter, Devon 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.
He received the injury whilst serving in the East Yorkshire Regiment, two months after D-Day
She went onto say: “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.”
I totally agree with Ms Madden.
The article also said that workers at Exeter and Devon Crematorium carefully sifted through his ashes and found the metal pieces.
Now this is my small concern. Looking at the picture it appears contain amongst other things, Philips screws? And wire, is that landmine ordnance? I not saying it isn’t and I am certainly not taking away anything away from the sentiment, or suffering of the soldier. It just left scratching my head about what they asked, what they got and how it was described, as it doesn’t quite add up: the amount and the type of material. In my head I think I can see how it may have worked. Ms Madden sought to recover the ‘romantic’ bullet, which was translated could the metal components from the crematoria be recovered. After all the crematoria staff are unlikely to able to distinguish shrapnel, so perhaps better to hand back everything metallic and let the family consider what to keep. So when Ms Madden received the bag containing almost 6oz of metal and said something like ‘My goodness! Was all this from my dad’s injury?’ What is the funeral director to say? Either no Madam this is the metal constituents removed after crematorium it contains all metal items that were placed inside the cremator we couldn’t separate the element you wished to reclaim, or… Absolutely, that is exactly what they are. Now maybe I am wide of the mark. However, as with a lot of writing on this most sensitive subject matters I truly don’t want to cause distress or offence, but my role as I see it, is to look at these matters though a different lens.