BBC report highlights importance of Bible to WW1 soldiers

On yesterday’s News at Ten, Martin Bashir, told the moving story of George Vinall, whose Bible took the impact of bullets while he was serving at the Western Front during World War One.

That day, George wrote to his family, that the bullet had stopped at Isaiah 49.8, ‘which caught my eye directly I saw it, “I will preserve thee”. May this be true of future days until I see you all again, is my heartfelt prayer,’ he wrote.

George survived the war and his faith grew. He went on to work as a missionary.

His story is one of many that shows how central the Bible was to soldiers during World War One. And, on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, we have a chance to reflect on that.

Every British serviceman was issued with his uniform, helmet, boots and a Bible. To commemorate this fact, Bible Society has produced a video which will celebrate the role of the Bible in soldiers’ lives during the Great War. This will be shown at churches across this country on Sunday.

Between 1914 and 1918 Bible Society distributed more than 9 million copies of Scripture in over 80 languages, to members of the British Armed Forces, but also to prisoners of war on all sides.

‘The Bible played such a significant role in the lives of British servicemen during World War 1,’ said Rachel Rounds, Head of Media & Communication at Bible Society. ‘As we remember the fallen this weekend, we can also find comfort in the same words that they read at the Western Front.’

Not only were some soldiers’ lives saved by the Bible, which they often kept in their breast pockets. It also provided solace as they lay dying.

‘Soldiers, when they were very badly wounded, had a tendency to produce the New Testament from their breast pocket and read it as they died,’ said Professor Michael Snape, from the Department of Theology at Durham University.

‘This is a phenomenon that was recorded when soldiers who were killed on 1 July 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme – were recovered and buried, many of them were found dead with the Bible, or New Testament in their hands.’

The grandson of George Vinall, Steve Vinall, explained why this might be, ‘They were in circumstances that were often out of their control and therefore they were in the hands of God.’

‘As we mark Remembrance Sunday this weekend, and remember the 65 million men who were mobilised across Europe, it is a moment to reflect on the importance that the Bible had in their lives, and that it still offers to us today,’ said Rachel Rounds.

Find out more about our World War One resources. You'll find films, stories, sermon notes and hymn suggestions.

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