The man who saved others’ lives at Passchendaele - Stories - Bible Society

The man who saved others’ lives at Passchendaele

Cricket-loving Ronald Marchant was the youngest of four brothers from the village of Weald in Kent to sign up at the start of World War One. Herbert, Robert, Reuben and Ronald all left their family home and headed for the Western Front. Ronald, who’d left school at 14, was just 19 years old.

He became a stretcher-bearer with the Royal Army Medical Corps. So, he spent four years at the Front, bringing back the wounded from No Man’s Land.

But it was at Passchendaele that he won the Military Medal, for bravery.

‘Every night they would go out to bring back the wounded,’ recalls his grandson, Ian, 55, a property manager from the neighbouring village of Hildenborough.

‘But when sunrise came the order was always given not to go anymore because the risk of being shot was too great.

‘On this particular morning, the chaplain came to my grandfather and said, “There are still two men out there. I’ll go if you will.”

‘He didn’t want to go, because the assumption was that they would be shot by a sniper. But he knew it was the right thing to do.

‘He said goodbye to his mother in his mind and went out. They brought the two men back over their shoulders and they all got back alive.’

Later he was commended as ‘a most reliable NCO, a good leader of men…who showed bravery in the field’.

The Marchant family were committed Christians, and, says Ian, ‘I think his faith was absolutely crucial to him. He was a man of prayer and read the Bible every day.’

Photographs at the time show how the war aged Ronald. By 1919, a picture taken in Belgium makes him look middle aged.

He had lived through four years of horror. ‘He said that the worst thing was the screaming of the horses as they drowned in the mud,’ says Ian.  ‘It haunted him.’

‘He’d seen a lot of horror, but he was one of the most sensible and balanced men I have ever met,’ he adds.

Ronald’s fragile service issue New Testament falls open at John 2:11, the only verse that he’s highlighted. It speaks of the ‘beginning of the miracles of Jesus’ which ‘manifested forth his glory and his disciples believed on him’.

In 1919, Ronald and his three brothers returned to Weald to take up a life of community service, church attendance and family life.

Every year, Diane, Ian’s wife wears his medal to the Remembrance Service parade. But, it’s not his Military Medal. It’s a small silver medal that marks the fact that he reached the finals in a football tournament held to mark the end of the war.

This self-effacing, faithful sportsman was ‘proudest of that’ says Ian. 

By Hazel Southam

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The man who saved others’ lives at Passchendaele

The man who saved others’ lives at Passchendaele

Cricket-loving Ronald Marchant was the youngest of four brothers from the village of Weald in Kent to sign up at the start of World War One. Herbert, Robert, Reuben and Ronald all left their family home and headed for the Western Front. Ronald, who’d left school at 14, was just 19 years old.

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