War hero’s helmet of salvation

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A miraculous wartime escape from death prompted a soldier to give the rest of his life to serving Jesus.

Major Joe Mullins MC (pictured above) died last year aged 103, but not before decades of work for the church in Britain and abroad, including preaching until he was 99.

It was fitting that Joe followed the Bible’s advice to “Put on salvation as your helmet” after his World War II helmet saved his life, with its two gaping holes a remarkable reminder of how his life was spared.

Joe was commanding B Company of the First Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) in Burma. Rangoon (now Yangon) had been captured on 6 May 1945, cutting off the Japanese 28th Army, which then tried to escape to Thailand.

The ‘Queen’s’ had orders to cut off the retreating Japanese forces despite being at half strength due to malaria and dysentery.

Joe’s men took heavy casualties from intense enemy fire but they had cleared most of the Japanese positions when they were held up by two machine guns firing from the cover of a large water tank.

Having reached a temple under cover of darkness, the company used grenades and bursts of Sten gun fire as they leap-frogged from tree to tree. They then had to crawl toward the enemy under intense machine gun fire.

For the courage he showed in leading the attack, Joe won the Military Cross.

His citation states: “During this crawl Major Mullins was shot twice through his steel hat”.

As Joe recalled: “One bullet entered the top of my helmet, ran round and came out the back. The path of the bullet can still be seen in the helmet. 

“I was crouching behind a mango tree and the second bullet went in the side of my helmet, burst open, ran around inside and came out the other side. So it actually came in near one ear and out near the other. The third one ricocheted off.”

Realising his battalion had lost 25 men and his own life had been miraculously spared, Joe gave the rest of his life to serving Christ.

He studied for ordination in the Church of England as soon as he was demobilised, going to Trinity College, Oxford, to read theology.

After serving as a curate at St Paul’s, Portman Square, London, in 1952, he travelled to India and for the next ten years worked with Scripture Union with the Children’s Special Service Mission.

For twelve years from 1962 Joe pastored St John’s Church in Bengalaru. Every year while he was there, he attended a children’s camp, when his helmet would be handed around the camp fire and the story would be retold of his miracle escape. 

In 1974, Joe and wife Edith moved to Canberra, where he was a senior minister before retirement in 1989.

After retiring, Joe and Edith took a caravan around Australia, visiting outback Bush Church Aid parishes. 

They also returned to Bangalore, and made regular trips to Britain and New Zealand, using Joe’s 60 years of ‘borrowed time’ to the maximum.

From New Life Newspaper issue 354

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