‘Steel Plate with Bullet hole’
On display in the Second World War gallery there is a small, square piece of metal, unremarkable except for the bullet hole which warps its otherwise smooth surface.
On the 10th of July 1944, Lieutenant Duncan Bishop of the 5th Battalion The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was involved in a fierce battle for control of Hill 112 – a strategically important area of high ground near Caen in Normandy. 5/DCLI came under heavy fire and Lieutenant Bishop was shot twice: once in his left arm, and once in his chest. This second bullet passed through the steel plate he had been using as a makeshift shaving mirror which he carried in his left breast pocket, and exited his body to the right of his breast bone – presumably missing his heart by inches.
A member of his platoon dressed his wound and left him in a dip in the ground whilst the ferocious battle continued around him. During that night 5/DCLI were counter attacked by German forces ten times – yet under the cover of darkness Lieutenant Bishop managed to drag himself unseen back to his own lines, where he was taken to a dressing station for his wound to be treated. Once back in England the wound was kept open for some months so that debris which had entered his body could be removed. One of the last things to be extracted was a piece of field postcard, on which was printed the words, “I am feeling quite well.”
Visitors can see Lieutenant Bishop’s steel plate-come-shaving mirror and it’s bullet hole on the first floor, in the Second World War gallery of the museum. In the same case lies a shell fragment which was removed from Lieutenant Bishop’s shoulder less than a year later, when a German farm he was occupying was shelled and he was hit. The impact caused him to fall into a sitting position, and he was taken to the farm’s cellar where it was discovered that his shoulder blade was broken. Lieutenant Bishop returned to England for surgery and the shell fragment was removed, marking the end of Lieutenant Bishop’s war.
The Museum is open every day between 10:00am and 5:00pm. Dogs are welcome, and there is free parking to the rear of the museum.
See our Object of the Month for June 2017, The Light Infantry M&M’s, here.