A Bullet Runs Through It
Last night the UOGB played our World War 1 show (When This Lousy War is Over part of the Lichfield Festival) at the Cathedral. Driving back home the next day, I passed by Blakesley Hall near Birmingham, where a uniform (containing this cigarette case) worn by my grandfather, Arthur (Brooke) Turner has just gone on display.
2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme during which 58,000 British troops were killed or wounded on the first day.
Two of those soldiers were my grandfather Arthur Turner (right) and his brother George (left) photographed here at the family house in Perry Barr, Birmingham in August 1915 before they left for the front.
Arthur Turner was a solicitor from Birmingham. He served as a Captain in the 5th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
On 1st July 1916, he and his brother George took part in the first day of the battle of the Somme and they both survived the first hour of the offensive, Arthur was carrying his cigarette case in the breast pocket of his tunic when it was pierced by shrapnel - shrapnel are sharp fragments which are thrown out by an exploding bomb or shell.
Although wounds from shrapnel were sometimes fatal, there were many accounts of soldiers lives being saved by objects they were carrying in their pockets. It was only later that day, when Arthur went to retrieve his cigarette case, that he must have realised how close to death he had come.
If you look at the tunic, you can see the path the metal fragment took. From the hole in the bottom breast pocket of the tunic. it travelled through the metal cigarette case, cutting the cigarettes in half (the trajectory is parallel to the thumb in the picture at the top of this page)
Later in the day he wasn’t so lucky, being hit by a bullet which shattered his leg and as a result of his injuries - his leg was amputated.
Fortunately for Arthur, a sergeant and another soldier dragged him back behind the lines and he was taken to a field hospital where his leg was amputated; he never forgot them, and sent the sergeant who helped him a Christmas hamper every year until he passed in 1953.