The World War One Memorial Plaque was made from Bronze and hence it was popularly known as the “Dead Man’s Penny” among front-line troops, also becoming widely known as, the “Death Penny”, “Death Plaque” or “Widow's Penny”. It was in October 1916 that the British Government setup a committee for the idea of a commemorative plaque that could be given to the next of kin for those men and women whose deaths were due to the First World War of 1914-18.
The first a family would know of the death of family member was the arrival of a telegram from the War Office. This would be followed by the World War One Death Plaque and any medals the serviceman would have earned serving his country.
The original plaque was a 12 centimetre disk cast in bronze gunmetal, which included an image of Britannia and a lion, two dolphins that represented Great Britain's sea power and the emblem of Imperial Germany's eagle being torn to pieces by another lion. Britannia is holding an oak spray with leaves and acorns. Beneath this was a rectangular tablet where the deceased name was cast into the plaque. No rank was given as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice. On the outer edge of the disk it bears the inscription, 'He died for freedom and honour'. The memorial plaque was posted to the next of kin protected by a firm cardboard purpose made folder, which was then placed in a white HMSO envelope.
Production of the plaques and scrolls, which was supposed to be financed by German reparation money, began in 1919 with approximately 1,150,000 issued. They commemorated those who fell between 4th August, 1914 and 10th January, 1920 for home, Western Europe and the Dominions whilst the final date for the other theatres of war or for those died of attributable causes was 30th April 1920.
The next of kin of the 306 British and Commonwealth military personnel who were executed following a Court Martial did not receive a memorial plaque.
Original materials- Bronze
Type- Memorial plaque
Established- December 1918 at the Government's Memorial Plaque Factory in Acton at 54-56 Church Road, London W3.
Eligibility- British and Commonwealth forces
Awarded to- Relatives of men and women whose deaths were attributable to the Great War of 1914-1918
Campaign- First World War 1914 -18
Total awarded- approximately 1,150,000 memorial plaques have been produced, of those 600 were to women.
Designer: Mr E. Carter Preston of Liverpool
Naming: The original memorial plaques always had the name of the deceased in raised letters.
(Note: The memorial plaque sold by Forces War Records DOES NOT come embossed, or engraved with your ancestors name)