Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dead Man's Pennies

It took over a year from the beginning of the First World War in 1914 before the British Government took the decision that some sort of official token of recognition and gratitude should be given to the next of kin of fallen service men and women.

In 1917 a public competition to design a commemorative token was announced in The Times newspaper and that the format should be in the form of a plaque.
The words ‘He/She Died for Freedom and Honour’ were to be included.

From over 800 entries, the design chosen was that of Edward Carter Preston of Liverpool – a 12 centimetre disk to be cast in bronze entitled ‘Pyramus’.

The individual elements of the design each had their own meanings:

Brittania, the personification of Great Britain holding Poseidon’s Trident, her head slightly bowed towards the named individual offering a laurel wreath, an ancient symbol of triumph or victory.

A striding lion symbolising the power and strength  of the British Empire crushing an eagle.
(The eagle representing the central powers)

Two leaping dolphins symbolising Britain’s naval power

Oak leaves representing strength and endurance.

No rank was shown in order that no distinction would be made, only the equality of sacrifice.

Out of the thousands and thousands of plaques and scrolls produced and sent out,
only 600 were issued to women.

The above scroll was sent out separately.
Some relatives returned the pennies as they felt insulted as this could never replace the life of a loved one whilst others treasured them.
The practice of having them mounted on Family Gravestones became quite common as can be seen on the photograph below, although many of these seem to have disappeared/are missing.
This of course could be due to unsuitable adhesives being used and the plaques have simply fallen off over time, or, as they’ve become popular ‘collector’s items’ (and can sell for quite a considerable amount of money), have been removed by ‘other’ means.

Names have been edited out of the photos of the still 'intact' plaques for obvious reasons!!

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