Revd. Edgar Popham’s Trench Lighter

Naked flames in the trench could make British troops easy targets, so soldiers used special trench lighters, with components to shield the flame, with which to light their cigarettes.

The designs varied and many were made by the soldiers themselves from empty bullet casings. Some of them weren’t very user friendly and in his war diary, Private Sidney Cooper describes the frustration of using them:

When first issued out to us, they was treated as a joke to see a man, blow, blow, blow, to cause the tinder to light and finally fed up with it. Especially, as in most cases damp, and flint not good, and the individual, blowing his cheeks out and out of breath, and with what wind left, cursing the lighter and swearing.

The Reverend Edgar Popham was a chaplain to the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment during the First World War. He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in 1915 and his actions at the Third Battle of Ypres gained him a Bar to the Military Cross.

Lieutenant Colonel Gripper wrote of his actions at St Julien:

During the whole of this time the Chaplain, with total disregard for personal safety, did all possible to aid the wounded, and when we retired, he was the last to leave and brought with him, almost carrying him, a man who was wounded in the leg.

After the war Edgar became a parish priest, finishing his ministry at the parish of Boxgrove in Sussex.