WW1 Christmas bible mystery ends in Ballymoney

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, holds the tiny pocket bible as Steven Chambers, Ernest Crawford and Laurence Chambers look on
The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, holds the tiny pocket bible as Steven Chambers, Ernest Crawford and Laurence Chambers look on

A family has been reunited with a World War One bible after decades of searching thanks to help from staff at Ballymoney Museum.

On Christmas Day 1915, a member of the Royal Fusiliers signed and dated a tiny pocket bible as he fought in the Great War.

Edwin RL Chambers inscription inside the tiny pocket bible

Edwin RL Chambers inscription inside the tiny pocket bible

It belonged to Edwin RL Chambers and now, over 100 years since he made his inscriptions inside, it has been returned to his son Laurence.

The mystery began in the 1940s, when Ernest Crawford discovered the item in a chest of drawers while working in a second hand furniture shop in Fintona, County Tyrone. He attempted to find the owner of the bible, or their family, for many years without success. Two years ago, at the age of 91, Mr Crawford enlisted the help of his nephew Garnet Bustard and museum staff in Ballymoney in a last ditch attempt to return the bible to its rightful owners.

This week at Ballymoney Museum, Ernest met Laurence Chambers and his nephew Steven, Edwin’ son and grandson, and the bible was finally handed over.

Ernest, modest in his achievement and now aged 93, said he was delighted that the puzzle had finally been solved: “I never thought that, after seventy years, we would get the bible back where it belonged, with the Chambers family.”

The bible which has now been returned to members of the Chambers family

The bible which has now been returned to members of the Chambers family

Laurence Chambers said: “Our family is very grateful that Ernest kept the bible safe all this time and we are very thankful for his efforts in seeking out the family to return it.”

Steven stated: “This links our family down the decades with three different generations of military service within the British and even American Armies. It is another piece in the puzzle for us.”

The historic moment was witnessed by the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE: “With Christmas Day approaching, I think it is hugely significant that the bible has now been returned to the family of its owner. We can only imagine what Edwin’s experiences were on the day back in 1915, as he signed his name and the date. I was delighted to meet his son and nephew, along with Ernest, and it was clear how much the occasion meant to all involved.”

Edwin RL Chambers’ war record is impressive and dramatic. He was a Lance Corporal with the Royal Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, later achieving the rank of lieutenant, and was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals for his service. In 1915, he suffered gas poisoning while on the front line and was later wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Edwin RL Chambers, the original owner of the bible.

Edwin RL Chambers, the original owner of the bible.

After the war and the completion of his military service in 1919, Lieutenant Chambers married his wife Kathleen and had six children, living in the Cavehill area of Belfast. Both were firm supporters of the Royal British Legion and were founding members of the Cavehill Men’s and Women’s branches. Edwin was chairman of the branch for some years before his death in 1954 while Kathleen was a prominent figure in the British Legion’s Women’s Section, acting as the Northern Ireland delegate to the legion’s annual conferences.

Edwin RL Chambers son Laurence and grandson Steven pictured with Ernest Crawford, his nephew Garnet Bustard (back row, third right) the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, staff from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Museum Services and representatives of Ballymoney RBL in Ballymoney Museum.
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Edwin RL Chambers son Laurence and grandson Steven pictured with Ernest Crawford, his nephew Garnet Bustard (back row, third right) the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, staff from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Museum Services and representatives of Ballymoney RBL in Ballymoney Museum. 6