Arthur William Byford was born 10 March 1891. After the outbreak of World War 1 on 28 July 1914, Arthur enlisted joining the 11th County of London Regiment in September of that year.
On 30th July 1915 Arthur, with his Regiment, left Liverpool Dock as part of the Dardanelles Campaign (part of modern-day Turkey), which was to include the Battle of Gallipoli. Whilst on active service Arthur maintained daily diary entries. On Sunday 15th August Arthur was wounded; the entry for this day reads:
Unloaded shells off boats. now waiting to go into the Firing line. We were shelled again this morning. Went into firing line about 3 o/c. Wounded at 1/2 past 5. Was picked up by our Machine Gun officer at 10 o/c & he was very good to us. Spent the night behind the firing line with Bullets flying all round. Was hit in the helmet twice by snipers. Just before I was shot I had apiece taken out of my puttie by Srapnell. I was shot in the right thigh & was saved from a more serious wound by my purse which was doubled up in my pocket with some money inside. The Bullet went through my pocket, the purse & took the edge off of a 1/2 crown that was in the purse.
Arthur’s family have kept the purse and coin that saved his life, along with the bullet shot into his right thigh and later removed by the doctor.
The leather coin purse was in remarkably good condition considering its age and use, although did require a little attention to help improve our understanding of it and preserve the remarkable story that brings these objects to life.
The majority of stitching around the edges had failed causing the two compartments of the purse to separate. The leather around the area of damage caused by the bullet also had prominent creases, meaning this part of the purse was not easily understood.
The leather was cleaned using a soft brush to remove surface dust, followed by consolidation to impart strength to the leather fibres, particularly in areas with scratches and abrasion.
The purse was then humidified and prominent creases eased out. Gore-tex® textile was used to humidify the purse. This material (more commonly associated with outdoor and active garment wear), works by creating a semi-permeable barrier between the object and liquid source; in our case blotting paper saturated with deionised water. The Gore-tex® allows moisture to penetrate the leather without allowing liquid water through. This works to raise the moisture content of the leather which in our case, responded by becoming more flexible, allowing for creases to be eased out. The damage caused by the bullet is now easily visible and not distracted from by surrounding creases.
The stitch holes were reinforced on the interior surface with nylon spun-bonded textile, toned to match the colour of the leather and adhered in place using a reversible acrylic-based adhesive. Once reinforced, the leather was strong enough to be re-stitched through the original stitch holes using a cotton thread, similar in colour to that of the original. A previous repair towards the bottom of the purse was kept untouched as it is quite probable this was done whilst the purse was in use.
Arthur was awarded The 1914/15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His family are immensely proud of his service and sacrifice, having endured the horrors of war in Gallipoli and witnessing first-hand the savagery and human cost of battle. They intend to display the purse alongside the coin and bullet, and work is also planned to conserve Arthur’s handwritten diaries. We look forward to reuniting the collection with the family and have loved working with these objects that provide such a great example of human bravery and resilience.