Hitler claims his last victim, 62 years after the War

Hitler's last victim: soldier dies from war wounds 64 years on

27th April 2007

Veteran soldier Leslie Croft became Hitler's last victim when he was killed by shrapnel 64 years after he was injured in action in World War Two.

Pathologists were left stunned when they discovered the piece of shrapnel 86-year-old war veteran Leslie died as a result of the shell fragment that had remained in his body since the injury.

Pathologist Dr Terry Marshall told an inquest : "Bizarre as it seems, it is undoubtedly because of the shrapnel wound sustained 64 years earlier that he died.

"At some time after he was admitted to hospital he was diagnosed with an obstructed bowel and even carcinoma but it was clear from my investigation that neither was present.

"Following a discussion with a surgeon who had treated Mr Croft before his death I became aware of the injury he sustained during the war."

Leslie Croft died from an injury he received in WWII

Rotherham Coroner Stanley Hooper gave a narrative verdict and said: "I rather suspect that Leslie Croft will be one of the last men to die of a wound suffered in World War Two.

"Leslie Croft died from broncho pneumonia consequent on a war wound which he suffered when fighting in World War Two in Italy in 1943.

"Mr Croft had undoubtedly made what appeared to be a miraculous recovery because he went on to work in the coal mines and he must have enjoyed quite a long period of retirement.

"But 64 years on Dr Terry Marshall is quite clear that the torsion of the small bowel that ultimately took his life was due to that shrapnel wound sustained in Italy."

Mr Croft was a miner but volunteered to fight when war was declared. He was a 19-year-old corporal in the Yorks and Lancs regiment when field surgeons were forced to carry out emergency surgery on a severe wound in his stomach caused by a shell blast.

He was brought back to the UK for further treatment but his injuries were so serious he never returned to active service.

Instead he spent the next three years as a sergeant working with prisoners in the North East before marrying and returning back to his hometown of Rotherham.

He worked again as a miner until his retirement in 1966. Around that time his elder son, also called Leslie joined the same regiment to follow in his father's footsteps.

Mr Croft snr, lived at Abbey Hill Nursing home , Rawmarsh, Rotherham, with his wife Mary, aged 84, for 18 months before his death in New Year's Eve. He had been admitted to Rotherham General Hospital with stomach pains, shortly after Christmas.

Pathologist Dr Marshall said that scar tissue surrounding adhesions made to Mr Croft's bowel during the operation to save his life in 1943, had caused a lump to form and cut off a vital blood supply. It led to broncho pneumonia and his death.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Croft's son Steven ,52, of Wingfield, Rotherham , said : "We were proud when we used to listen to his old war stories that he told us when we were kids. He was proud to have served his country and we are still very proud of him now.

"We have been aware of his war wound all our lives. As kids we always used to ask him about it and he would tell us all about what happened when he was a soldier during the war and it was the same with my children when he talked to them.

"He was a quiet man and he would only talk about the war if he was asked. Over the years his experiences during the war and his wound proved to be quite a conversation piece but we never imagine he would kill him.

"Dad must have suffered a lot of pain when he was injured all those years ago but he has lived a full life and I supposed you could say that he has had a good innings.

"As the coroner said he must be the last person to die from an injury sustained in the second world war. I suppose in a way it is a great tribute to him and one I am sure he would be really proud of.

What a tough old bugger. Very cool. Neat story, Blackleaf.

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