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A cigarette case saved the life of a WWI soldier by taking the full force of a bullet

Photo of Second-Lieutenant William Alexander Lytle, and the damaged cigarette case Credit: Hansons Auctioneers

A cigarette case that is thought to have saved the life of a Derbyshire-born First World War soldier is to be auctioned off.

It belonged to Sherwood Forester Second-Lieutenant William Alexander Lytle, who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at the age of just 21.

The damaged case, thought to have been kept in the soldier’s breast pocket, where it was struck by a spent bullet that may have been on track to pierce his heart.

It was a present from his wife, Bertha Elizabeth Lytle, after the pair married in Ashbourne, Derbyshire in October 1916.

An ageing note kept inside the silver case has shed some light on its life-saving past, it reads: “This silver cigarette case was given by my mother to my father during the 1914-18 war.

He carried it with him in the trenches in his breast pocket where it was struck by a spent bullet. He was unharmed – JE Lytle”

Damaged cigarette case Credit: Hansons Auctioneers

According to Adrian Stevenson, a military expert at Hansons Auctioneers, the tale told by the cigarette case appears to be all too familiar for soldiers fighting in the trenches.

He said: “Many soldiers kept hard objects in the breast pockets of their army uniforms in a bid to protect themselves from enemy fire. Cigarette cases, shaving mirrors and pocket Bibles were popular.”

These objects have gained historical significance. They provide us with an insight into how young men who lived a century ago dealt with the grave dangers faced in the trenches in the war to end all wars.

– Adrian Stevenson, military expert at Hansons Auctioneers
Second-Lieutenant William Alexander Lytle Credit: Hansons Auctioneers

Second-Lieutenant Lytle went on to also fight in the Second World War, and lived until the age of 80.

The cigarette case, and a collection of Lytle’s medals, will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers on November 22nd, with a guide price of £1,000-£2,000.

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