Optatius Buyssens was on a reconnaissance mission near the Belgian town of Lebbeke in September 1914. The sound of loose change in his pocket attracted the notice of a nearby German trooper, who fired in his direction.
Optatius was hit in the chest and went down, but the coins deflected the bullet, sparing his life. Optatius survived the war and died in 1958.
Vincent Buyssens, a twenty-eight-year-old digital strategist who is the great-grandson of Optatius, shared the story on Reddit nearly a hundred years later. He posted a picture of the coins, noting, “These coins stopped a bullet and saved my grandfather’s life during World War One.”
There are six coins, each showing a high pressure stress mark that had bent their edges. It’s obvious that a high amount of kinetic energy was expended to create these peculiar marks at some point in these coins’ history.
A native of Antwerp, Vincent said his father received the coins from Optatius himself, as well as his wartime notes and journals.
“The story I shared on Reddit happened at the very early days of the war during a battle in the Belgian town of Lebbeke. Ironically, the coins were the reason why he got shot because it was the noise of them clinking together in his breast pocket which gave his position away.”
Buyssens goes on to say that his great-grandfather was lucky, despite also receiving a kick in the head from the German soldier who shot him, after Optatius had fallen down and pretended to be dead. After the German left, Optatius and another wounded comrade crawled to safety.
Vincent had found the story in the journal long before he shared it, but had decided to save it to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. He stated that the story was one that captured the imagination, sounding almost too good to possibly be true, and that’s why he put it online.
The story has since been seen by over 1.3 million readers and has collected more than 131,000 upvotes, with plenty of people surprised by Optatius’ good fortune.
Vincent couldn’t believe the story when he’d first heard it years ago. But after talking it over with his father and grandfather, and then reading it in the journals himself, he believed.
Reddit users drew attention to the fact that it wasn’t just Optatius’ life that had been preserved by the lucky stack of coins, but those of his descendants–including Vincent–who would never have been born if the bullet had been an inch to the left or right.
Naturally, Vincent acknowledges, there were a lot of skeptics on Reddit. Whenever he gets the opportunity to explain the circumstances in full, however, they often change their minds. Regardless, everyone, especially Vincent’s family, agrees that it’s a unique personal wartime story.