Coin which saved First World War soldier up for auction

By Matthew Cooper, Press Association
Private John Trickett took the Victorian-era penny to war as a reminder of home.

A lucky penny which deflected an enemy bullet during the First World War One – saving a soldier’s life – is set to be sold at auction.

Private John Trickett would have been shot in the heart if the bullet – which still left him deaf – had not struck the coin in the breast pocket of his uniform.

Instead, the round ricocheted through his ear, leading to his honourable discharge from the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1918.

Minted in 1889, the dented penny is due to be sold next week by Derbyshire-based auction house Hansons.

The firm’s militaria expert, Adrian Stevenson, said: “It looks to me like a pistol bullet hit the penny at close range.

“I’ve come across many stories of random objects saving soldiers’ lives but I’ve never seen anything like this before.

“Soldiers used to keep objects in their breast pockets in an attempt to protect themselves from enemy fire and explosions.

“It’s likely John Trickett kept the penny there on purpose. When the bullet hit the coin, it ricocheted up through his nose and went out through the back of his ear. It left him deaf and disabled but still alive.

“He was honourably discharged from the Northamptonshire Regiment on September 7 1918, shortly before the 1914-18 war ended.”

The penny is part of a collection of war-related ephemera belonging to Pte Trickett, including his British War Medal and Victory Medal.

The items are being sold by Pte Trickett’s granddaughter, Maureen Coulson, from Duffield, Derbyshire.

The 63-year-old said: “Everyone in our family saw the penny and heard the story of how it saved my grandfather’s life – his two brothers, Horace and Billy, both died in the First World War.

“My granddad was born in 1899 and would have been around 19 years old when the incident happened.

“It damaged his left-hand side and left him deaf in his left ear. It also affected his balance.

“He was a great big guy from a Lincolnshire farming background but as soft as a brush. He worked with horses back home and couldn’t bear to see the way they were treated on the battlefield.”

After returning from the conflict, Pte Trickett married Mrs Coulson’s grandmother, and they had eight children.

He then worked as a postmaster, and as a switchboard operator at Barnburgh Colliery in South Yorkshire, but died at the age of 63 after collapsing at work in 1962.

Mrs Coulson said: “I remember him well. It’s strange to think that, but for that penny, his children would not have been born and I wouldn’t be here.”

Mr Stevenson said: “I hope a keen militaria collector will buy and treasure these items. The penny is a poignant reminder of the fine line between life and death, particularly in wartime.

“I’ve heard about random objects deflecting bullets to save lives before but, until now, I’d never had the opportunity to see and examine them myself.”