Letters of the First World War: stopping a bullet

Is there a story like this in your First World War family history? For Mother’s Day we take a look at a popular story from 1915.

Mother's Letters - Nottingham Evening Post - Saturday 18 September 1915

Nottingham Evening Post, Saturday 18 September 1915
© Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD and digitised by the British Newspaper Archive.

“His mother’s letters in his pocket saved his life”

On 18 September 1915, the Saturday edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post published the following:

The bullet, striking him on the breast, was diverted by the letters


“A packet of his mother’s letters in his pocket saved the life of Private C. Murrel, who, fighting in the Gallipoli, was picked off by a sniper’s bullet, which striking him on the breast, was diverted by the letters, went down his ribs, and came out at his thigh.

“He is progessing well in hospital.”

Stories of bullets miraculously stopped by miniature Bibles, letters, and other personal items are very common, and were widely circulated during the First World War.

Looking for evidence

It is possible that the Nottingham Evening Post was exaggerating. This snippet of news doesn’t mention a first name or a regiment, so it is more difficult to track who “Private C Murrel” was.

The name could be spelled wrong, too. Possibly he was a Murrell or a Murell. (In Wales, the Abergavenny Chronicle also reported the story, and spelled his name “Murrell”, noting only that he was “of an English regiment”.)

On the other hand, perhaps Private Murrel (or Murell) was a relative of yours. Do you have any family stories you could share when Lives of the First World War launches?

Perhaps you even have the letters themselves, complete with bullet hole!

With your help, we hope to uncover as many stories as possible on Lives of the First World War.

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2 Responses to Letters of the First World War: stopping a bullet

  1. James Mac says:

    There are three or four C Murrells on the Medal Cards, one was a Captain in the RASC; one served in the 3rd Rifle Brigade who never went near Gallipoli; another was in the 10th Essex and the same applies. But one was with the Worcestershires, and their 4th battalion did serve at Gallipoli. He’s the one I’d start with.

    • Miranda Brennan says:

      Thanks, James; this is a great pointer. We very much hope Lives of the First World War will bring people together to pool their knowledge exactly like this. It would be wonderful if we could uncover more about who Private Murrell was – and many more like him.

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