In October 2010, relatives of the NZ soldier who lost a Bible in 1917, and of the British soldier who found it in the First World War trenches in 1918, will meet at the graveside in France of the NZ soldier.
The Bible will be Donated to the NZ National Army Museum in 2011.
Richard Cook (1891-1917) of Colac Bay, Southland, New Zealand, lost a Bible while he was serving in the Otago Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force near Messines in Belgium in June 1917. This Bible was discovered in the mud in the trenches by British soldier Herbert Hodgson (1893-1974) and kept in the possession of his family. Ninety-two years later, its original NZ owner has been traced, using the army serial number inscribed on the top of the Bible. Several relatives of Richard Cook have also been contacted.
Richard Cook died on 8 October 1917 of wounds received near Passchendaele and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery in France.
Relatives of both Richard Cook and Herbert Hodgson will meet in France this October. This will be the first time that members of these Cook and Hodgson families will have met. On the 93rd anniversary of Richard Cook's death, on 8 October 2010, they will carry out a short commemorative ceremony at his grave in Etaples. They will honor the lives of two great soldiers.
The memoirs of Herbert Hodgson entitled Impressions of War have just been published by Martlet Books (www.martlet-books.co.uk) in the UK. The book tells the story of his harrowing experiences in the First World War, how he found the Bible in the trenches, and how he later became one of the greatest printers of fine books, including Lawrence of Arabia's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Copies of the fine 1926 edition printed by Hodgson now auction at prices in the region of US$80,000 each.
In a moving act of generosity, Herbert Hodgson's family have decided to donate the Bible to the National Army Museum in Waiouru in New Zealand. There it will be accessible to both Richard Cook's relatives and the general public. A ceremony in Waiouru to hand over the Bible is planned for March 2011.
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