Shrapnel - First World War

Contributed by Geoffrey Denton

Shrapnel - First World War

These three metal fragments are pieces of shrapnel from a German artillery shell dating from 1917 - they are positioned beside a modern 50p piece for size comparison.

The pieces were extracted from the left arm of my grandfather, Geoffrey Denton, who was a field gunner in the British Army. The wound was incurred during the battle of Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres) fought in Belgium between July and November 1917 during the First World War. The square piece beside the coin still has fragments of uniform attached to it and weighs approximately 40 grams (1 ½ ounces). Artillery fire accounted for nearly 70% of the casualties in this war and it is a chilling experience to weigh these small items in one's hand and to try to imagine the appalling carnage that objects like this wrought. My grandfather did not return to the fighting and so, ironically, may well owe his life to his wounds. Geoffrey's survival meant that there are twenty two subsequent descendants who would not otherwise have been born, including me. He lived to the age of 78.

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