In this monthly blog series, one of our curators will write about their Object of the Month, chosen from our collection. This November Karen Watts, Senior Curator of European Armour, tells us about a recently purchased picture which tells a fascinating and heroic story.
The marvellous escape from death of Lt. Hugh Kinred and the picture that tells the story
The Royal Armouries has recently purchased a picture that tells a story. It happened a century ago in 1916. The picture contains the front page of the Daily Mirror, an officer’s rank pip and a piece of shattered body armour.
Hugh Cowell Kinred, a young clergyman, joined the 14th Glo’sters (‘Bristol Bantams’) as a soldier, not as a chaplain. In 1916, while walking along a trench he saw a bomb come over and drop near seven soldiers who were fast asleep. In his own words:
“In a moment, I saw the danger they were in, and that no time could be lost in picking it up: so I decided to smother it by lying on it. No sooner had I lain on it than it exploded, blowing me from the corner of the trench at an angle of about 30 degrees on to it’s top, and I should doubtless have been killed but for the lucky chance that I was wearing a Whitfield steel waistcoat.”
His heroism was immediately reported:
From the supplement to the London Gazette, 27 July, 1916.
His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Military Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Warrant Officers, in recognition of their gallantry and devotion to duty in the field:
Temp. Lt. Hugh Cowell Kinred, 14th Bn. Glouc. R:
“For conspicuous gallantry. When a bomb thrown by the enemy fell at his feet in the trench, he at once threw himself on it, and was blown into the air and much bruised and cut by the explosion, his life being saved by his steel waistcoat. His plucky action saved many casualties.”
He was also promoted to Captain in the field. The body armour saved his life!
Kinred had purchased a Dayfield Body Shield made by the Whitfield Manufacturing Company shortly before the battalion sailed for France in January 1916. The Dayfield was one of the most popular body armour’s, and was widely available from military outfitters and department stores.
It consisted of a breastplate and a backplate, each composed of four steel plates, sewn into a canvas waistcoat, and weighed about five and a half pounds.
The body armour was intended to be proof against spent bullets, shell splinters and grenade fragments, but even its inventors were probably surprised that it had survived such a close encounter. Whitfield made good use of testimonials from satisfied customers in its marketing campaign, and it wasn’t long before they were using Kinred’s story in newspaper adverts all over the country observing, “The Dayfield Body Shield saves officer who threw himself on exploding bomb”.
Kinred was a remarkable character who returned to clergy life and had a colourful private life. To find out more about ‘The Amazing Life of the Revd. Hugh Cowell Kinred’, read the article at Winterborne Family History Online.
To discover more about the items in our collection visit our collections online.