Search for a family link to lost Bible of soldier on the Somme

    Ray Beaumont

    Tunbridge Wells resident Ray Beaumont is trying to find the family of a First World War soldier who lost his Bible during the Battle of the Somme.

    Mr Beaumont’s grandfather, Edward, brought the book back from the front after finding it while serving with the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1916.

    It was handed down through the family and now, a century later, the 77-year-old retired engineer wants to reunite the tome with the descendants of Private Manners.

    The Bible is inscribed with the words ‘Private A. S. Manners, No. 72279, 134th Field Ambulance, Haigh Hutment, Farnham, Surrey (1916)’.

    Haig Hutment was a basic training camp for the Royal Army Medical Corps.

    The volume was published in 1914 by the British and Foreign Bible Society in Queen Victoria Street, London, and includes the injunction ‘Appointed to be read in churches’.

    Ray Beaumont 2

    It was discovered by Edward Beaumont at Thiepval Wood, a crucial battleground during the prolonged conflict, on September 8, 1916.

    Mr Ray Beaumont said: “We’ve managed to find out quite a lot about Alfred Sidney Manners, who was only 17 when he was sent to France in March 1916.

    “He was serving with a Field Ambulance unit on the front line, presumably picking up the wounded and carrying them to safety.”

    But Private Manners was sent home after being shot in the left arm.

    Mr Beaumont added: “We were lucky to find his service records, since most of the collection was destroyed by fire during the war.

    “They show that he was small, just 5ft 4in tall, and that he came from Tooting (in south London). He had been a cinematographer before the war.”

    Despite his investigations, Mr Beaumont has been unable to find any of his relatives. “It is almost exactly 100 years since my grandfather came across Manners’ Bible, and I would dearly love to return it to his descendants.”

    The Battle of the Somme began on July 1, 2016 and raged for 141 days. It is estimated that more than a million men were killed or injured in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of warfare. Thiepval now houses a Memorial to the Missing which bears the names of 72,194 Allied soldiers.