Bible found in WWI trench traced to original owner
A Bible, which was found the trenches during World War I, will bring together the families of the man who owned it and the man who found it to commemorate the two soldiers in a service of remembrance this October.
Herbert Hodgson (1893-1974) discovered the Bible when he fell into a shell hole in April 1918 during an attack.
He later wrote in his memoirs, “My hand grasped something in the mud. It was a book. I shoved it in my pocket, got up and carried on. A shell landed nearby and the blast knocked me out. I was picked up by a stretcher party and carried back to the line.”
“When I came to I remembered the book. It was a Bible, encrusted with mud. There was no name inside it but the army service number 34816 had been written across the top outer edges of the pages.”
After serving in the First World War, Hodgson became the acclaimed printer of the rare 1926 edition of Lawrence of Arabia’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
The Bible is currently in the possession of Bernard Hodgson, Herbert Hodgson’s second son.
Ninety-two years later, the original owner of the Bible has been traced to Private Richard Cook of the Otago Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, who died aged 26 of wounds on 8 October 1917 and is buried in Ètaples Military Cemetery in France.
This October, on the anniversary of Richard Cook’s death, relatives of both Richard Cook and Herbert Hodgson will carry out a commemorative ceremony at his grave in honour of the two soldiers.
Herbert Hodgson’s family will donate the Bible to the National Army Museum in Waiouru in New Zealand at another ceremony in March 2011.
According to Professor Peter Simkins, former Senior Historian of the Imperial War Museum, “Herbert Hodgson’s memoirs, ‘Impressions of War’ provides the reader with a splendid example of the extraordinary insights which even a private soldier from a working-class background was able to offer concerning life, death and conditions on the Western Front.”