WW1 Memorial Plaque Death Penny Herbert Brothers
The Memorial Plaque was issued after the First World War o the next-of-kin of all British Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.
The plaques (which could be described as large plaquettes) about 4.72 inches (120 mm) in diameter, were cast in bronze, and came to be known as the “Dead Man’s Penny”, because of the similarity in appearance to the much smaller penny coin which itself had a diameter of only 1.215 inches (30.9 mm). 1,355,000 plaques were issued, which used a total of 450 tons of bronze, and continued to be issued into the 1930s to commemorate people who died as a consequence of the war.
The design of the plaque was the result of a competition, held while the war still raged, although manufacture did not start until 1919. In 1917 a committee set up the competition for any British-born person to design a plaque to record the name of a fallen serviceman or woman from the British and Empire forces. There were more than 800 entries to the competition from within the United Kingdom, from countries in the British Empire and from the theatres of war. The winning design was by Mr Edward Carter Preston (1894-1965) his initials, E.CR.P, appear above the foot of the lion.
The design features the figure of Britannia facing to her left and holding a laurel wreath in her left hand. Underneath the laurel wreath is a box where you will find the commemorated serviceman or woman’s name. The name was cast in raised relief on each plaque, in her right hand, she is holding a trident. In representation of Britain’s sea power, there are two dolphins each facing Britannia on her left and right sides. Standing in front of Brittania is a growling lion, with a smaller lion under its feet, biting the German Imperial eagle.
Around the edge of the plaque are the words “He died for freedom and honour”. These words were specified by the design competition committee to be included in any design submitted.
Over 600 of these plaques were received by the families of women, for whom the inscription was changed appropriately, as in this example for the next of kin of Winifred Stanley Coates VAD.