Bibles on the Western Front

image of a shrapnel in a bibleVictorians will have an opportunity to see the actual Bible that saved the life of a young soldier on the Western Front.

Their Sacrifice is a touring exhibition run by the Bible Society Australia as part of a year-long commemoration of the Gallipoli landing centenary. It showcases the remarkable stories of 10 soldiers and the Bibles they took with them to war.

One of the Bibles on display belonged to Lance-Corporal Philip Davies from Ballarat. Mr Davies was laying telephone cables at Messines Ridge in Belgium when two shells exploded next to him, spraying shrapnel into his legs and arms.

He was transported to London for surgery. The following morning, he looked through his pockets to find his New Testament Bible in his left breast pocket, just over his heart.

When he opened the Bible, he discovered a piece of shrapnel buried within the pages. The hard back cover had prevented the shrapnel from piercing his heart.

Richard Davies, Lance-Corporal Davies’ son, remembers the day his father told him about the Bible.

“My Dad only pulled out the Bible once or twice,” Mr Davies said.

“He spoke to me about it and he told me, ‘Richard this is going to be yours one day and you’ve got to look after it.’

“It was then I realised I wouldn’t be here today if that New Testament had not saved his life. It was out of the ordinary. It’s something that has [now] come out of the dark to show people that certain things can happen.”

Richard lent his father’s treasured Bible to the Bible Society for the exhibition. It still holds a piece of the WWI shrapnel that nearly claimed his father’s life.

Visitors to the exhibition can view the stories of nine other soldiers in campaigns dating back to the Boer War.  For many of the young men, the Bibles offered peace and hope during the horrors of war.

Dr John Harris, Their Sacrifice curator and Bible Society historian, said the Bibles are set of war relics that will interest Australians of all ages.

“The Bibles are real Australian icons. It was a privilege to research and write their stories,” he said.

“No Australian could fail to be both intrigued and moved by them.”

The exhibition is currently on at Westfield Doncaster until Sunday 30 August. It will then be on display at Westfield Geelong from 6-13 September.

You can read more about the ten diggers at the Their Sacrifice interactive website.


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