A Royal British Legion stalwart died of cancer caused by asbestos, an inquest was told.

Peter Franklin developed the lung disease mesothelioma last year, as a result of working with asbestos during his career as a joiner and carpenter.

The 82-year-old, of Mill Street, Kidlington, regularly attended repatriation ceremonies for British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, held outside the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Mr Franklin, who lived in Kidlington his entire life, left school at 14 to work in his uncle’s hardware store in the village.

He lied about his age to join the National Fire Service as a messenger boy at the start of the Second World War, before later joining the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, seeing service in Egypt.

Mr Franklin trained as a carpenter after the war, and in later life regularly collected money for the Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal.

On Tuesday, Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court was told Mr Franklin developed breathlessness in February last year.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma a month later, and died at home on January 6 this year.

His wife of 56 years, Joyce, said that after the diagnosis, Mr Franklin looked into when he might have come into contact with asbestos.

She said: “Peter was told it might have been caused by exposure.

“He really thought about it and eventually got in contact with an old friend and together they tried to work out exactly when it may have happened over the years.

“He was self-employed and would have sawed and handled asbestos while he was working.”

In a statement read to the court, Robert Davies, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the Churchill Hospital, in Oxford, said exposure to asbestos was to blame for the disease.

He said: “Mr Franklin’s work as a carpenter involved working with asbestos, which sadly precipitated the mesothelioma.”

Consultant pathologist Dr Elizabeth Soilleux performed an autopsy at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

She said: “Asbestos body counts were very high in Mr Franklin’s lungs, indicating a high level of previous exposure.

“It can often be 30 or 40 years after exposure before the condition becomes apparent.

“People who work with asbestos are at greater risk of developing mesothelioma.”

Recording a verdict of death by industrial disease, Oxfordshire Coroner Nicholas Gardiner said: “I am quite satisfied that he was exposed to asbestos, which led to mesothelioma.”

  • The Government estimates there are about 4,000 asbestos-related cancer deaths in the UK every year.

Mesothelioma has been described as a “ticking-timebomb”, because symptoms and the disease often surface decades after the person was exposed to the mineral.