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Byline: CHARLES WHITE Reporter @charleswhite3

A PRAYER book that saved a young Tommy's life and was lost in battlefield mud has been donated to charity.

Corporal Tommy Crawford, serving with Durham Light Infantry, bravely charged into a German trench at the Battle of the Somme only for his rifle to jam.

Facing certain death at the hands of the German infantry Tommy was stabbed by a bayonet but as if by miracle a prayer book he kept in his uniform stifled the blow and saved his life.

The book was later lost in the mud of the battlefield but in an incredible twist it was found and returned to Tommy's sweetheart at home, Amy Boast.

The Consett man's prayer book became a family heirloom - complete with a bayonet hole through its pages.

His son, Brian, has now donated the book with other war mementos to the DLI Collection in Spennymoor.

Travelling from Thailand, Brian also donated his father's accounts of the war, the young soldier's poems, medals and a "King's shilling" given to him on joining the army.

He said: "My father, Tommy Albert Crawford, served in the 15th Battalion DLI during the First World War.

"He was just 18 years old when he joined the army and during his time in service he fought in battles at Loos and the Somme.

"He was very lucky to survive the war as he charged into a German trench, his rifle jammed and a young German bayoneted him in the chest.

"Fortunately, the bayonet entered his silver cigarette box and then went halfway through a prayer book that he carried in the same pocket.

"My father's friend shot the German dead.

"Incredibly, when my father fell injured on the Somme on July 1, 1916, he lost his prayer book but somehow it was found and returned to his sweetheart Amy, who he later married. "It's amazing to think there are over 70,000 names of the missing on Thiepval memorial but this little prayer book found its way home."

When brave Tommy returned to the North East he lost three sons and his wife before he died at the age of 84.

His memoirs were written during his night shifts at a Scottish power station and were released to raise money for the Commonwealth Grave Commission.

"We have a duty towards these men and to honour those who served, to remember those who died, and to ensure that the lessons learnt live with us forever" added Brian.

The donated documents will also be available to view at Sevenhills, with pre-bookable viewings and an "on demand" service every Tuesday and Thursday, from 10am to 3pm, from October 11.


Brian Crawford donates some of his wartime belongings to the DLI collection on a visit to Durham

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 21, 2016
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