Trunk Containing Belongings of WWI Soldier Rediscovered A Century After; Auctioned Off

A trunk containing the belongings of a 28-year-old WWI soldier was recently rediscovered almost 100 years later after the Great War. Dubbed the “time capsule” trunk, it was auctioned off Tuesday, November 3, with the lot having the estimated price of £8,000.

Second Lieutenant Charles Bodman was 24 years old when the Great War broke out. He signed up, joined the Gloucestershire Regiment and was immediately shipped off to France November of 1915. Bodman got wounded twice before he got selected for a commission in 1917. He went on to serve as an officer in the Durham Light Infantry and a year later, he returned to France.

It was during this return to the said country – in Arras to be exact – that Bodman got killed in action on August 28, 1918. It was only three months before the Great War would have ended. He was 28 at the time of his death and he had no known grave.

After his death, all of his belongings were shipped back to his grieving mother, Sarah. It was her who neatly folded everything including his WWI uniforms and stored them inside the wooden trunk. Aside from Charles’ belongings, Sarah also stowed the possessions of her other son, Christopher, inside the said trunk. Christopher was three years younger than Charles and also soldiered in the war but was able to return home alive.

She, then, shut it away in the family-owned draper’s and grocer’s shop. It had not been opened since then.

After putting her sons’ belongings inside the trunk, Sarah – who was already widowed before Charles died – left it alone never once opening the said trunk again. When she died in 1930, her remaining son, Christopher, took over the shop. In accordance with his mother’s wishes, he also left the trunk alone.

Over time, the Bodmans’ Draper and Grocer evolved, becoming more of a museum and less of a store. When Christopher passed away in 1983, all of the historic items inside it were sold to the villagers — the trunk was one of them. It was a man who had fond memories of the store that got it.

The trunk was in his possession since then. It remained unopened.

However, the recent death of that man has put the trunk, along with its contents, to light. What’s more, the whole lot was put up for auction.

The Bosleys Military Auctioneers auctioned off the trunk and its contents as one item with the name The Bodman Brothers Historic & Important Great War Archive of Uniform & Emphemera. The lot had the estimated price of £8,000.

According to Bosleys’ Bernard Pass, the worth of the trunk was far more than that whooping estimated price if it and its contents were split up and sold individually. But the firm decided to do the opposite — sell the trunk along with the items inside it as a whole.

According to Mr. Pass, he had not seen anything like the trunk in over 40 years of being in the business.

He went on to delineate that aside from the Army-issued tunics and breeches it contained, items inside the trunk included all kinds of equipment and kits a WWI officer would have needed while spending his time in the trenches during the Great War as well as a number of German souvenirs which he thought Second Lt. Charles Bodman obviously seized during his time in the Western Front.

Mr. Pass also stated that a there was a cardboard box in the trunk containing hundreds of handwritten letters, training notes, field message pads, Trench maps and photographs.

But as he was calculating the individual costs of each group of items he unearthed from the trunk, Mr. Pass said that it was the bronze Memorial or Death Plaque that stopped him dead in his tracks.

“This trunk box demonstrates one mother’s sadness.She literally kept every single fragment of her lost son’s life in the army. It all went in this trunk,” He said and that thought drained whatever intention he had of selling the items inside the trunk individually.

The auction of the “time capsule” trunk took place in Marshfield.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE