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Ron Evans: veteran survived Blitz and one of Second World War's bloodiest battles

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Ron Evans before the Cenotaph remembrance service in 2017
Ron Evans before the Cenotaph remembrance service in 2017

A VETERAN who survived one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War and later went on to install the heating system for a young Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, has died aged 97.

Ronald Charles Evans spent more than 30 retirement years in New Milton with his wife Hilda, who died a year ago. In the town he was a member of the Royal British Legion and part of a patient committee of Arnewood practice.

He leaves a son, Rob, and daughters Carolyn and Jacqueline.

Born in Clapham, south west London, in December 1921, he and brother Albert grew up in nearby Norbury with their parents.

Ron gained entrance to Streatham Grammar School, but unfortunately had to leave at 15 to become a wage earner.

After numerous clerical roles, including a job at the Post Office, he and Albert took over running the family heating, ventilating and building businesses in 1939 when the outbreak of war saw their father called up for the second time in less than 25 years.

The businesses brought new challenges to both brothers, but flourished under their management. However the three years until 1942 when Ron enlisted were not a safe and easy option. London during the Blitz under German attack from the air had its own dangers.

On one occasion in 1940 Ron was cycling home to Norbury following a meeting in central London, when at Battersea Bridge a bomb hit a nearby building and he was concussed and buried under bricks and other debris, said son Rob.

“But after 20 minutes or so, he recovered enough to continue cycling his way home, knowing full well his mother would by then be extremely worried. But when he arrived home he struggled to get into the family air raid shelter due to the number of neighbours taking refuge there.

“Just a few weeks later a German bomb hit a neighbour’s house three doors down and the force from the blast split their own air raid shelter in two, and moved their house from its foundations. Not surprisingly they moved.”

When Ron enlisted he decided to join the Royal Artillery as his father had during WWI. After training as a surveyor, his first posting was to Algeria starting with an 18-mile march to camp.

It was on to Tunisia then with the American 5th Army to a beach landing near Salerno, Italy, before, with the British Eighth Army, the penultimate battle at Monte Cassino which lasted five months and was one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

After crossing France, Ron’s last battle was in Arnhem, Holland, with the First Canadian Army with whom he then advanced into Germany. His medals included the African Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star.

By 1946, Ron was back running the family businesses from Croydon, concentrating on heating and ventilation, with his father and brother Albert.

They were winning some large and prestigious contracts, including, the Queen’s Estate from 1958, which included a new heating system to her personal apartments at Windsor Castle.

When his father retired and brother emigrated to Canada, Ron joined another major specialist company before taking his skills into the public sector as a principal local government officer in Southend-on-Sea

By 1986 he retired aged 65, moving to New Milton for a well-earned peaceful and enjoyable retirement with Hilda.

In 2017 he had marched to the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday, wearing his own medals, as well as his father’s on his right chest, and assisted in laying the wreath on behalf of the Monte Cassino Society.

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