Like the British Army, the RAF issued bibles to its men for use on active service if they wanted one. The book produced was a little larger than the army’s version, with a black leather cover:
The badge of the RAF is embossed in gold on the front together with the words “Active Service Edition”:
Inside the cover of the book is a message from the King to the airman who received the book:
The edition of the bible chosen has both old and new testaments and is the standard King James’ version of the book. A smaller, new testament only version of the bible was also produced which was small enough to slip into a pocket if required.
Although issued in the Second World War, these bibles exist in large numbers and one curious story relating to an RAF bible was reported by the BBC in 2013:
When a former RAF policeman heard his grandson was being sent on a second tour of Afghanistan, he gave him a gift in the hope it would keep him safe.
Alfred “Henry” Collins, 95, was issued with his military Bible in 1941 while serving as a corporal at RAF Bawdsey in Suffolk. When he heard about his grandson’s deployment, he urged him to take the Bible with him and keep it safe. Cpl David Coles, 31, an Army policeman based in Colchester, accepted it as “a lucky charm” even though he is not religious himself.
Six months later, he returned it to Mr Collins at his Cambridge home, in time for the Bible to be used during a family memorial service. Cpl Coles’s safe return, together with the Bible, has nothing to do with either luck or charm, according to Mr Collins.
“I do feel it has protected him,” he says. “I survived the war, it helped me, and and I’m thankful to think it helped David.”
Mr Collins served in both the UK and Norway during the war, and always carried the Bible, which contains the Gospel of St John and a hymn book.
“The Bible was important to me during the difficult war years and I knew it would be a comfort to David if he had it with him, and he could read it as he wished,” he said. “There’s a lot of stress when you’re away from home in uniform – especially for David in Afghanistan – a very treacherous country.”
Cpl Coles, a member of 156 Provost Company, Military Police, said he was nervous about taking his grandfather’s “treasured possession” on active service.
“His Bible is obviously something of massive importance [to him] and it’s very, very old, so I needed some way to keep it safe. I kept it with me the entire time in an evidence bag, tucked up in my body armour beneath the Kevlar,” he says. “But Henry is the one with the strong faith and I knew it was important to him. To me it’s more a lucky charm – I suppose I’d call it that.”