Private John Trickett looked death in the eye when an enemy bullet was aimed at his heart during the First World War – but a penny saved his life.
Pt Trickett kept a penny made in 1889 in the breast pocket of his soldier’s uniform, a poignant reminder of home.
It proved to be his lucky penny as, during the dreadful conflict which claimed 10 million soldiers’ lives, including those of his two brothers, the coin took the full impact of a German bullet, brutally bending under the force but ultimately deflecting the danger.
The dented penny, which shows the exact mark of impact where the bullet landed, has been found by Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers’ militaria expert Adrian Stevenson.
He said: “It looks to me like a pistol bullet hit the penny at close range. I’ve come across many stories of random objects saving soldiers’ lives but I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s very poignant.
“Soldiers used to keep objects in their breast pockets in an attempt to protect themselves from enemy fire and explosions. Shrapnel was the biggest killer in wartime.
“It’s likely John Trickett kept the penny there on purpose. When the bullet hit the coin, it ricocheted up through his nose and went out through the back of his ear. It left him deaf and disabled but still alive.
“He was honourably discharged from the Northamptonshire Regiment on September 7, 1918, shortly before the 1914-18 war ended.”
The penny is part of a collection of war-related ephemera belonging to Pt Trickett which includes his British War Medal and Victory Medal. The collection will be sold at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers on March 22 with an estimate of £30-£50.
The items are being sold by Mr Trickett’s granddaughter Mrs Maureen Coulson, 63, from Duffield, Derbyshire.
She said: “Everyone in our family saw the penny and heard the story of how it saved my grandfather’s life – his two brothers, Horace and Billy, both died in the First World War. My grandad was the only survivor.
“My grandad was born in 1899 would have been around 19 years old when the incident happened. He had to come home because of the injury. It damaged his left-hand side and left him deaf in his left ear. It also affected his balance.
“We think it’s likely he signed up to serve in the army when he was under age as he looked older than he was. Many soldiers were under age, they were so keen to serve their country.
“He was a great big guy from a Lincolnshire farming background but as soft as a brush. He worked with horses back home and couldn’t bear to see the way they were treated on the battlefield.
“When he returned to the UK, he married my gran, Clementine, and they had eight children. He had various jobs after the war including working as a postmaster and as a switchboard operator at Barnburgh Colliery in South Yorkshire. He collapsed at work day and died at the age of 63 in 1962. I assume it was a heart attack. I was only six when he died.
“I do remember him. It’s strange to think that, but for that penny, his children would not have been born and I wouldn’t be here.
Mr Stevenson added: “I hope a keen militaria collector will buy and treasure these items. The penny is a poignant reminder of the fine line between life and death, particularly in wartime.
“I’ve heard about random objects deflecting bullets before but never had the opportunity to examine items like this at close quarters.
“Strangely, just after the John Trickett’s penny came into Hansons, two more First World War items that may have saved lives arrived – a hip flask damaged by shrapnel and a soldier’s belt buckle with a piece of shrapnel still wedged in it.”
Private Trickett’s war memorabilia will be sold in The Medals and Militaria Auction, Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on March 22. To find out more, email [email protected]
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