In light of the First World War Centenary people are digging out old photos, war diaries and letters — adding colour to the black and white facts and giving a much more personal view on the conflict.
One interesting story I saw in the Hull Daily Mail was about a family researching their military ancestor’s story only to find out that he had a narrow escape after he was shot during the First World War.
And guess what he was saved by?
A pair of nail scissors!
You wouldn't naturally assume that nail scissors would be found on a rugged World War One soldier fighting among much mud and blood shed — or that they would indeed end up saving him — but that’s exactly what happened to Private Albert Rice.
According to the article a bullet hit him, ripping through his flesh and into his lung, but the scissors he was carrying at the time deflected it away from his heart.
It did however tear through his leather wallet and a collection of letters and photographs that he was also carrying, which somehow survived and the family still have now. Every piece of paper bears a tear at one side, showing where the shot travelled. Albert’s family don't have the nail scissors that saved him but they know that if the private had put them in a different pocket that 1918 morning, he might not have survived and they might not be here.
“The bullet hole goes through everything that was in his wallet. It’s just incredible,” Gillian Rice, Albert’s granddaughter told the newspaper.
Born in 1898 Albert, like many others at the time lied about his age to sign up to war and then again like many other veterans he didn’t talk much about his experiences.
After researching her grandfather’s military background, Gillian knows he signed up in late 1915 and was probably shot in March 1918, after being transferred to the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. After getting wounded he ended up behing German lines and became an Allied Prisoner of War.
“Albert had been in some battles, so he had probably been over the top more than once,” she added.
Albert’s mother preserved the letters he wrote to her. Because of paper constraints and censorship, they are brief and to the point. The messages are surprisingly upbeat and include:
“You have no idea how eagerly I look forward to your letters, just to read about home.”
“You must not worry too much about me but keep me in your heart and look forward to the time I arrive home.
“How happy we will be together again.”
Letters and diaries were very important to soldiers on the front because they kept up morale and now they are able to provide great memories and insight into the First World War. For many of those fighting on the front – writing was a welcome distraction from the horrors of trench warfare. Letters were also censored and served as a propaganda purpose, which is important to remember when looking at these old documents.
Albert and his family were finally reunited after the war ended and he was shipped back to England to be with his mother and sister once more.
There's nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are constantly exposed to moving stories, war diaries and personal accounts involving lashings of courage, which you can view on our website.
Source: Hull Daily Mail
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