Lost WWI Bible to return home

New Zealand soldier Richard Cook died of wounds received in a battle near Passchendaele in Belgium in 1917. Photo / Supplied
New Zealand soldier Richard Cook died of wounds received in a battle near Passchendaele in Belgium in 1917. Photo / Supplied

A New Zealand soldier's Bible - lost and found in the trenches in World War One - will be returned to his homeland this week by the family of the British soldier who found it.

On April 12 1918, Herbert Hodgson fell into a shell hole during an attack near Messines in Belgium. There he found a Bible encrusted with mud.

In his memoirs he wrote: "There was no name inside it but the army service number 34816 had been written across the top outer edges of the pages". He was told by an officer the original owner would be impossible to trace and he should keep it for luck.

His family without success tried to trace the number until last June his publisher Geoffrey Hodgson (no relation) identified the original owner of the Bible as Richard Cook, of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Mr Cook died in a hospital in France in October 1917 of wounds received a few days earlier in battle near Passchendaele in Belgium. He is buried in the war cemetery in Etaples in France. Passchendaele was one of the major battles of World War One.

Herbert Hodgson survived the war, became an acclaimed printer and eventually wrote his memoirs entitled Impressions of War, which were published last year. His family will donate the Bible to the National Army Museum in Waiouru at a ceremony on Wednesday.

His son David, publisher, and relatives of Mr Cook will attend.

- NZPA

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