A prayer book that saved the life of a young English soldier has been donated to the Durham Light Infantry collection, 36 years after his death.
Tommy Crawford joined the army at 18 and was involved in battles at Loos and Somme during World War I as part of the 15th Battalion DLI. It was in the Battle of Somme when Crawford charged a German trench that his rifle jammed and he was bayoneted by a young German soldier.
However, a silver cigarette case and a Book of Common Prayer stopped the bayonet and a fellow English soldier shot the German, saving Crawford’s life.
The prayer book was lost on July 1, 1916, when Crawford was injured. Miraculously, the book was found and returned to Crawford’s sweetheart, Amy Boast, whom Crawford later married.
After Corporal Crawford’s battle injury, he was discharged from the army and returned home where he married Amy. Sadly, he was widowed young when Amy died of cancer.
He then lost Tommy and Jack, his two sons, to polio and cancer. The young men, both in their early 30s, died within six months of each other.
He remarried and would have two more sons, Brian and Colin, but lost Colin, only 25, just six months before his own death at 84.
The prayer book, along with Crawford’s handwritten accounts of the war, poems, medals, and a “King’s shilling”, given to him when he joined the army, have been donated to Durham County Council’s Sevenhills in Spennymoor.
Corporal Crawford’s memoirs, which he wrote while working night shifts as an engineer at a Scottish power station, have been published to raise money for the Commonwealth Graves Commission.
His son Brian said “We have a duty towards these men and to honour those who served, to remember those who died, and to ensure that the lessons learnt live with us forever.”
Reporting from The Northern Echo
Photo credit: Durham County Council