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‘He died for Freedom and Honour’

A round memorial plaque, cast in bronze, bearing the name of a deceased First World War soldier was sent to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.

Some 1,255,000 of these commemorative plaques, accompanied by a memorial scroll and a message from King George V, were sent to all members of HM Forces,  (for some reason unknown to me, Indian troops were excepted).

An old school friend of mine, Trevor Ilott, who now lives in Snettisham, Norfolk, England has a Dead Man's Penny set in a wooden fretwork frame. Cleverly cut into the botom are the words "Lest We Forget". One can imagine this plaque hanging on a parent's wall for many, many years.

Undoubtedly, many families still have these plaques, passed down as heirlooms from generation to generation. Commonly known by their nickname, “Dead Man’s Penny”. My older brother, Burleigh, who lives at Felixstowe, Suffolk, well over 20 years ago gave me one of these memorials inscribed for William Pratt, who was possibly from that seaside town. I have attempted to trace this soldier through war records but found more than one soldier listed by that name.

Designed by sculptor and medallist Edward Carter Preston, the plaque shows an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion. Britannia holds an oak wreath above a panel containing the name of the deceased soldier.

The plaque bears the lettering: “He died for freedom and honour.

The accompanying scroll headed by the Royal Coat of Arms in colour reads:

He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom.

Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten.

The King’s message, headed Buckingham Palace, reads:

I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War. – George R.I.

These memorial plaques remain as constant reminder of the price paid by those who fell during the Great War of 1914-1918.

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