The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Norwich couple treasure WWI New Testament 

JamesJimHow100 years after the start of World War I, Norwich Christian Joyce Harrison and husband John, tell of how they treasure her father’s ‘Active Service’ New Testament which he was given on enlisting aged just 17. Mike Wiltshire reports.

The moving story of a young British soldier in World War I has now emerged after a news report in Network Norwich and Norfolk recalled how many soldiers carried pocket-sized scriptures into battle.

A personal copy of the ‘Active Service’ New Testament was carried in the top pockets of uniforms by many of the four million soldiers who faced life-or-death situations in the Great War. The Scriptures, which carried a message by Field Marshall Lord Roberts – a committed Christian - brought a measure of spiritual comfort and hope to young soldiers in the trenches.

Today, 100 years after the start of the war, many families still treasure these little pocket Testaments. Among them is the family of the late James (‘Jim’) How (pictured) who was only 17 when he was enlisted into the Army.

JohnHarrisonwithNTJim’s eldest daughter, Joyce Harrison, lives in Norwich with her husband, John, a Lay Reader in the Church of England.  They attend Christ Church, Eaton and John is also a member of the Full Gospel Businessmen in Norwich.

John is pictured here with Jim’s New Testament which had a special page with a ‘decision form’ which Jim signed,  to record his personal faith in Jesus Christ, based on the Bible promise that “as many as received Jesus, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name,” John 1:12.

The boy soldier Jim was sent to the Western Front to dig trenches, despite an inherited deafness problem – he could not even hear the church bells ringing as the firing ended on November 11, 1918 (now known as Armistice Day).

Years after the terrible conflict which killed well over a million Commonwealth servicemen, Jim, like his brothers Alf and Harry (also enlisted men), did not speak much about the horrors of the war.

Jim went on to marry Grace and he also became a successful lithograph printer, despite his progressive deafness. Jim, born in Walthamstow, died at the age of 78 at Halstead, Essex, two years after he lost Grace.

In Norwich, Jim’s daughter, Joyce, now plans to give the her dad’s treasured New Testament to her nephew, Tim, a service officer in the Army, thus keeping the heirloom in the wider family.

John first met his wife, Joyce, as they trained on the wards as nursing students.  They moved to Norwich 28 years ago, and became well-known health visitors in the area where John was also team leader in the city with SSAFA ‘Forces Help’, a national charity serving ex-service men and women and their families. 

As a teenager, John came to faith in Christ through the ministry of UK evangelist of Eric Hutchings.   Lay Reader John said: “The Scriptures are precious to us. It’s great to know that many soldiers in World War I also valued the Scriptures, as Jim did, too.”

Pictured here: Jim How aged 17; and Lay Reader John Harrison in Eaton, Norwich, with Jim’s Pocket Testament. 

Network Norwich and Norfolk would love to hear from other families in Norfolk with stories related to World War I New Testaments.  Please email to tell us your story.  

To submit a story or to publicise an event please email: web@networknorwich.co.uk