In the north east and around Britain, commemorations have recently been taking place to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in human history and there are many incredible stories associated with it – including the case of one Consett soldier whose life was literally saved by his prayer book.
During the battle, Tommy Crawford, of the Durham Light Infantry, was attacked while attempting to take a German trench. Because Mr Crawford’s rifle jammed, it was difficult for him to defend himself and he was bayonetted by a German soldier. But the bayonet’s blade was stopped by Mr Crawford’s prayer book and cigarette case, which he had in his shirt pocket. Now Mr Crawford’s son, Brian, has donated the prayer book – complete with bayonet hole – to the Durham Light Infantry Collection in Spennymoor.
In the chaos of battle the prayer book got lost in the Somme’s mud, but later it was miraculously found and returned to Mr Crawford’s girlfriend back in England. In addition to the bayonet hole, the prayer book contains medals, poems, handwritten descriptions of the Somme conflict and the ‘King’s Shilling’ Mr Crawford received when he joined up, at the age of just eighteen.
Brian Crawford said, “He was lucky to survive the War as he charged into a German trench, his rifle jammed and a young German bayonetted him in the chest. Fortunately, the bayonet entered his silver cigarette box and then went halfway through a prayer book that he carried in the same pocket. Incredibly, when my father fell injured, he lost the prayer book, but somehow it was found and returned to his sweetheart Amy, who he later married.”
“It’s amazing to think there are over 70,000 names of the missing on the Thiepval Memorial, but his little prayer book made its way home.”
Mr Crawford served in the Durham Light Infantry’s Fifteenth Battalion, reaching the rank of corporal. Cpl Crawford passed away in 1980 at the age of 84, after marrying twice and fathering four sons. The prayer book will be on public display at Durham County Council’s Sevenhills, Spennymoor, from October 11th.