Archives: WWI soldier saved by book, tale of German soldier disguised as a nun - and snow causes havoc in 1985

Kids enjoy a snowball fight in the winter of 1985.
Kids enjoy a snowball fight in the winter of 1985.

30 years ago... 1985: Temperatures plunged to -6.4C in Boston in January cancelling sports and causing a hazard to road users.

The cold snap also proved dangerous to elderly people in their homes.

One Boston woman working as a home help was praised for saving the life of an old woman who collapsed in her home with hypothermia.

Reluctant heroine Joan Wilson, of Oxford Street, said she had just been doing her job when she visited the woman in her St Anne’s Lane home.

Unusually the 87-year-old didn’t answer the door so Mrs Wilson stopped a passing police car and with the permission of the Social Service, they broke the door down and found woman lying on the bedroom floor. She was taken to hospital and said to be recovering.

100 years ago... 1915

A Boston soldier serving in the trenches during the First World War was saved from death by the small book in his breast pocket.

Pte John Watkin of the 1st Lincolnshire Regiment, was hit by flying shrapnel, which struck his breast pocket containing the ‘Soldier’s Small Book’. The book stopped the metal from piercing his heart.

The book was left dented and doubled across at one end as a result of the impact. Packed alongside it were some picture postcards and a letter from his wife.

The force of the blow spun Watkin around like a top. Glancing off the book, a shrapnel bullet grazed his ribs. It would have been a lucky escape but another portion of the same shrapnel inflicted on him ‘a wound which laid open his throat and left cheek’.

It was a very dangerous injury, but skilful surgery saw Pte Watkin return home to his wife and young family in Wormgate. Pte Watkin said: “About 300 of us were knocked out, killed and wounded. I was 10 yards off a big hedge when I was hit. The same day we lost all our officers except one.”

A bizarre tale of espionage and cross-dressing was recounted by an American in a letter to Boston Mayor Mr C. Lucas.

The American enclosed snippets of ‘The San Diego Union’ paper which printed a letter allegedly sent from a Boston woman to her American cousin. She allegedly wrote: “Did I tell you that we had taken in a Belgian nun as a companion, though we were taken in as well? One night we heard a noise in ‘her’ room and going up quietly we peeped through the transom and what I saw I shall never forget. There was the ‘sister’ in a German uniform, shaving. My sister phoned for the police, and after a struggle, the man was arrested. A little later a shot was heard that announced the last of him.”

The mayor of Boston replied to the American denying the truth of the story.