A retired British colonel reads some ‘sad news’: he is dead.18 January 2021
The retired Colonel was bemused — and amused — to read the ‘sad news’ of his own death. His obituary was published in the British army’s Airborne Network newsletter.
Colonel Black, 84, from New Milton, in Hampshire’s New Forest, had to reassure a number of friends and former comrades that he was in fact alive and well.
The colonel, who served in the UK army for 38 years, displayed the stereotypical British ‘stiff upper lip’ at the premature revelation.
An ex-parachutist in the regiment made immortal by the film A Bridge Too Far, the Colonel said: “It was first picked up by a member of the branch, who rang Phyllis Inglis, the branch secretary saying ‘Why didn’t you let me know Ron had died?’
“From what I’ve heard, the rumour came from a colleague I had served with who now lives in France, who said he heard it from another friend who claimed he had read about my death in a newspaper.
“It was a bit of a Mark Twain moment,” Colonel Black said. When Twain was told by a reporter he was checking rumours that the American humourist had passed away, he had quipped: “The report of my death is an exaggeration.”
The colonel also seems to have taken his reported demise in good spirit. “I wasn’t angry, but instead thought it was rather amusing.
“It’s not something everybody gets to do: read their own obituary. The details printed about me were correct – apart from the obvious.”
Col. Black said his wife Patricia, 83, has received a number of condolence cards mentioning the obituary.
He added: “I’ve spoken to the editor who apologised and said he would make sure he checks his facts more carefully in future.”
An Airborne Network spokesman said: “Although Colonel Back’s death was reported to us from two separate sources in good faith it turned out to be an embarrassing mistake.”