How carrying pocket Bibles saved many ANZACs

During World War 1 many stories were recorded of Army-supplied New Testaments saving lives when bullets and pieces of shrapnel entered the Bible rather than a soldier’s heart.

This was due to the custom of soldiers of keeping their New Testaments in the left breast pocket of their four-pocket, khaki woolen tunics. Equally important was the 1.5 cm thickness and sturdy cloth-board binding.

At Gallipoli on 2 May 1915, Private Laban Chuter of the 13th Battalion was wounded in the chest, head, and legs but was saved because a bullet had punched into the pages of Scripture in his left breast pocket.

Five days later Robert Grant, a former Bible Society salesman, was wounded by an explosion. He wrote of the account to a friend “I was carrying [the Bible] in my left pocket and a piece of bomb struck it, and went halfway through it, leaving itself embedded in the paper.”

The story of young Lance-Corporal Elvas Jenkins, who was hit by a bullet on the shores of Gallipoli during the ill-fated 1915 campaign is often retold at this time of year. The bullet tore into his New Testament but was stopped by the gospel pages of the tiny bible.

On the Western Front, Private Charles Whatley was hit three times and saved by “my Bible stopping pieces of shrapnel from entering my body near the heart.”

In August 1916, Private Alf Findlow was taken prisoner along with four members of his section near Pozierès. All five were shot at point-blank range by a German officer and left for dead as German infantry advanced.

A Bible in Findlow’s pocket deflected the bullet aimed at his heart. Findlow treasured that Bible until he died in 1952.

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