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Museum of the Manchester Regiment Object focus Dead Man's penny

Museum of the Manchester Regiment Object Focus

Dead Man's Penny

Memorial plaqueImage of Memorial plaqueIn 1916 the Government recognised the need to show some form of official gratitude to the next of kin of the fallen men and women of the Great War. A committee was set up to investigate the most suitable form of recognition.

In 1917, following the committee’s recommendations the Government announced a competition to design a suitable plaque. The competition had 800 entrants.

In 1918 the winning design was selected, it’s designer, Edward Carter Preston, a Liverpool medallist, received £250

Thomas Gorman's plaque

This plaque was given to the family of Thomas Gorman of Ashton-under-Lyne. Before the war Thomas worked at the Minerva Spinning Company. Thomas enlisted in Ashton and served with the 9th Battalion the Manchester Regiment, going overseas in May 1915. Thomas had four brothers who served in the army. The patriotism of the Gorman family was well known, so much so that they were known as the ‘Fighting Gormans’. Thomas was 26 years old when he was killed on 14 June 1915.

Thomas is buried in the Lancashire Landing Cemetery, Turkey. His Plaque is on display in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, along with over 100 others.

Where were the Plaques made?

The ‘Memorial plaque factory’ was established in Acton, North London to manufacture the plaques. Production later changed to various munitions factory premises, including Woolwich Arsenal. The ‘WA’ initials in a circle on the rear of a plaque identify these.

What do the symbols on the plaque mean?

Each element of the design has a special meaning.

  • Britannia is shown respectfully bowing to the named individual, her left hand is granting a wreath of leaves, symbolic of triumph, onto a rectangular tablet bearing the full name of the dead person.
  • No rank is shown in the named tablet as it was intended that no distinction be made between the sacrifice made by officers and other ranks. At the very base of the plaque a lion, a symbol of British power, is shown defeating the eagle, a symbol of central powers.
  • Two dolphins represent Britain’s naval power.
  • The stylised oak leaves are symbolic of the distinction of the fallen individual.
  • He ‘Died for freedom and honour’ was a compulsory element of the design competition.
  • A lion is shown ‘Striding forward in a menacing attitude’, symbolising British strength.

Did you know?

  • 1,355,000 plaques were issued using 450 tonnes of bronze.
  • Only 600 plaques were issued to women. These plaques bear the wording, ‘She died for freedom and honour’.
  • A memorial plaque is also known as ‘ Dead man’s penny’ ‘Next of kin’ plaque or ‘Death plaque’.
  • Many plaques were secured to the headstone of the individual named, although some were stolen. Other plaques were mounted in frames and still remain on family mantelpieces to this day.

Do you want to learn more about the plaques?

The Museum has recently been able to display, for the first time ever, its full collection of memorial plaques. 

This project was only made possible as a result of funding from Renaissance North West. Renaissance is a national scheme to transform England’s regional museums.

Why not visit the Museum today and see our collection of over 100 pennies and learn more about these men and boys that died while serving their country in the First World War.

Each of the memorial plaques on display is being researched by the Museum’s Curator and volunteers with the aim of creating a short biography of each man’s life and experiences.

As these are compiled each will be placed in a ‘Roll of Honour’ in the Museum’s Ladysmith Gallery for you to see.

Each of these biographies will also be placed on-line as part of our new ‘Regimental Life of the Month’ feature. If you know anything about any of these men we would very much like to hear from you.

The Imperial War Museum has a very interesting article on their website called The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque Link to External Website

Page last updated: 12 April 2011