On 12 April 1918 British soldier, Herbert Hodgson found the mud encrusted bible when he fell into a shell hole during an attack. His diary says: ‘There was no name inside it but the army service number 34816 had been written across the top outer edges of the pages.’
His family later tried to trace the army service number without success. But in June 2010, using the internet, Geoffrey Hodgson (the publisher of Herbert Hodgson’s memoirs) identified the original owner of the Bible as Richard Cook from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Cook, originally from Colac Bay, Southland, died in a hospital in France on 9 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.
Herbert Hodgson survived the First World War and became the acclaimed printer of the rare 1926 edition of Lawrence of Arabia’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Single copies of this beautiful edition are advertised at prices in the order of US$80,000.
Herbert Hodgson’s family generously donated the bible to the National Army Museum in Waiouru at a special ceremony on 23 March 2011. David Hodgson, Herbert’s son, travelled all the way from the UK to deliver the bible and meet some of Richard Cook’s relatives.