A Death Penny

These plaquettes were given to relatives of those servicemen and women who died as a result of World War One. Sadly, they are very common. One million three hundred and fifty five thousand such plaques were issued. One of them was given to relatives of my Great Uncle Harry Stevens who was gassed on the Belgian/French border in 1916.

image002Although rather light heartedly called a penny. They were not penny sized. They were much bigger.

image004

As we can see they are about 5 inches in diameter, and quite chunky. In fact 450 tons of bronze was used to make them all.

The design was decided after a competition. Here we have Britannia holding a laurel wreath. The lion represents the strength of Britain and the dolphins represent the naval power. In the little sector at the bottom a British lion is tearing a German eagle to shreds. Personally, I hate that symbolism which implies, for that First World War that one side was right and the other was wrong. Personally, I believe it was all wrong.

The competition winner was Edward Carter Preston. His initials appear just above the front paw of the lion.

So great granny, whose sampler we saw a couple of days ago, lost her only son and was given about 12 ounces of bronze as compensation. It has to be said that Harry Stevens joined up in 1914 as a volunteer. I daresay he fancied some adventure and seeing overseas. Well he is still overseas, in the graveyard at Bailleul in France.

I have written about Harry before on this blog. You can click here and also here to read about his life cut short.

The death penny has only just come into my stewardship having been cleared from my late sister’s house.

 

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3 Responses to “A Death Penny”

  1. Janet Says:

    The futility of war. And yet we glorify the millions of personal tragedies. And each one reverberates down through the generations.

    • locksands Says:

      Janet – I’m so glad to find somebody else who thinks war is futile. Does it ever really solve anything?

  2. genealyn Says:

    As you say they were all too common, but important that they are remembered. I have just recently blogged about the one that my brother and I have inherited.

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