Friday, 8 July 2016

Life saved by a Bible

The life of 21-year-old British soldier, Pte Frank Viner, was saved at the Somme by his Bible.

His father had given to him less than three months previously for his birthday. Neither of them could have known that the book would save Frank’s life.

His daughter, Grace Cross (80) from Leatherhead in Surrey, describes Frank as ‘jovial, thoughtful and happy, always keen to help others’. She takes up the story.

‘He always kept the Bible in his right-hand breast pocket,’ she says. ‘They were in the trenches at the Somme and for some reason, he moved the Bible into his left-hand pocket.
‘Then he heard the words from Psalm 91 go through his mind. They say, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but you will not be harmed.”

‘Then there was an enormous blast as a shell hit the trench. His comrades were killed all around him.’
Frank was thrown to the ground by the shell’s impact, his uniform torn, his helmet blown off. And he too would have been dead had it not been for his Bible.

A ‘huge piece of shrapnel’ was embedded in it ‘ripping it open from cover-to-cover,’ says Grace.
‘If he hadn’t moved it to his left-hand pocket, he would have been killed,’ she adds.
‘My father always said that his Bible had saved his life,’ says Grace. ‘He felt that God was protecting him. It was an extraordinary experience.’

It was to have a lasting impact. Shell shock from the incident took Frank first to hospital and then away from the front line for the rest of the war.

Grace believes the incident also led to her father having two nervous breakdowns in later life.
But it also confirmed him in his faith. ‘There wasn’t a Sunday that he didn’t go to church twice,’ she says.

‘He would have gone into the ministry, and spent a year training at Bible college after the war, but in the end he went into the family’s bakery business. But he always preached as a lay minister about his experiences in the war.’
Hazel Southam: Bible Society

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