A military bible that has seen two wars, finally makes it back home in time for a memorial for the wife of its original owner.
Cpl. Alfred Collins was issued the small bible in 1941 while he was an RAF policeman stationed in the United Kingdom and Norway during World War II. Collins’ grandson, Cpl. David Coles was asked by his grandfather to carry the tome during his six month tour in Afghanistan.
Upon the death of Collins’ wife, Mary, the bible will be used in commemoration of her.
The bible contains the illustrated version of the St. John Gospel and a hymnal book that was issued by the Baptist and Congregational Churches.
Coles is a member of the 156 Provost Company, Military Police which is based in Colchester. Coles told the BBC: “My grandfather has a strong faith and wanted me to take his service bible with him.”
To honor his grandfather’s wishes, Coles carried it with him at all times.
The Bible was not a standard issue during those times. It was most likely funded by various churches around the nations and they were issued to soldiers by the military chaplains. They also had several denominations for those who requested one.
Feargus Read, from the Imperial War Museum in London, said: “There are many stories of soldiers being saved from bullets by their bibles, because of course they would have kept them in their breast pockets, close to their heart.”
Coles kept the bible in his body armor. He said that he kept it in a special pouch in his day sack to avoid damaging or losing it.
While he was on tour, he took the bible to a chapel in Camp Bastion where Padre Martin Sheldon blessed it.
“For [my grandfather] religion is very, very important indeed so this will mean a great deal to him,” Cpl Coles said.
He has since returned to Colchester barracks and later this week he will visit his grandfather to return the blessed tome.
“He’ll be chuffed to bits that I’ve managed to keep this in one piece here in Afghanistan and bring it back to him in one piece,” Cpl Coles said.
“I have kept excellent care of it, because it’s a treasured possession of his.”
The bible will be used during the memorial service to remember Collins’ late wife, Mary. They were married for 68 years.