A soldier's copy of the New Testament has been returned to the Bible Society after surviving the trenches of WWI.
Richard Davies was a teenager in the 1930s when he found his father's treasured bible while cleaning their home in the central Victorian town of Ballarat.
Mr Davies said he was told once, and once only, about his father's near death experience years earlier and of a miraculous bible that saved his life.
Philip J. Davies was a fresh-faced 20-year-old when he and a handful of other soldiers were selected to dig and lay telephone cables at the bloody battleground of Messines Ridge, Belgium in July 1917.
Their battalion had arrived at the trenches of the Western Front in time for the onset of a bitter winter and Lance Corporal Davies' 21st birthday.
The soldiers were hastily laying cable under the cover of darkness when two shells exploded nearby killing one man and injuring three others.
Records state Lance Corporal Davies was struck by shrapnel on the right thigh, back and left leg.
The lucky survivor woke up in a London hospital and found his soldier's copy of the New Testament, issued to him by Australia's Bible Society, was still in his top pocket.
A piece of shrapnel had pierced the cover of the book and its wafer-thin pages but stopped partway at Ephesians 6:16.
"Above all, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked," the passage read.
A surgeon standing by his bed reportedly said "you've been saved by that New Testament. If the stiff back cover hadn't stopped the shrapnel, it would have entered your heart."
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The lucky bible stayed within sight of the Lance Corporal until his death in 1972.
He passed it to his son Richard with the instructions to hold onto the bible until his own death, at which point he should gift it back to the Bible Society with "much gratitude".
Richard Davies lived in Ballarat for 100 years and 19 days before dying on January 29, 2022.
The weathered New Testament was handed back to representatives from the Bible Society on September 14, 107 years after it was issued.
"Without it Richard's century of living would not have even begun," his close friend Max White said at the ceremony.
The presentation was held at the Ballarat Ranger Barracks, named after the Drill Hall where the local Battalion once trained and the Lance Corporal's miraculous story began.
He would have waved to the cheering crowd as he marched along Sturt Street with the 39th Battalion to war.
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