Tuesday 31 July 2012 by Chris Goddard. 2 comments
Collection, First World War Centenary, Personal Stories, First World War


Pair of spectacles which deflected shrapnel : Sergeant W R Fisher, 1 Battalion AIF Pair of spectacles which deflected shrapnel : Sergeant W R Fisher, 1 Battalion AIF

Survival in war is more often a matter of luck than skill, and luck is fickle. These spectacles were being worn by Sergeant William Fisher as he and three others played cards in a dug-out in France in August 1918. His mate, Lance Corporal John Drum, was last to join the game, and moved a dud shell out of the way to sit down. It exploded.

Both men had already survived battles and wounds. Fisher had been shot in the foot at Passchendaele in 1917, and Drum was wounded in 1916; both had recovered and returned to their unit. Now, in late August 1918, the Germans were fighting a drawn-out retreat and the end was in sight.

The explosion ended John Drum’s war – his right hand and right leg were shattered and both were amputated later, while his left leg received a compound fracture. He was fitted with artificial limbs in 1920 and lived with this legacy for the rest of his life.

Bill Fisher was more than lucky. A metal splinter from the explosion hit one lens of his spectacles and smashed it, but he walked away with nothing more than a ringing in his ears and a new respect for luck.

The spectacles form part of the Australian War Memorial’s extensive collection of artefacts from the battlefields of France.

For a longer account of Sergeant Fisher’s wartime experiences, see REL/00877 in our Collection.


John Scott Palmer

John Drum had probably moved unexploded shells before and not treated them with the respect they deserved! Sheer bad luck for him - amazing that the shrapnel didn't go straight through and into Bill Fisher's eye. Shrapnel can be fickle - LT COL Charles Green's death from a random shell in Korea is a sad example. Interesting article Chris! Thank you!


lucky guy