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First World War death plaque | Creepy collection - Death plaque | Birmingham City Council

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Image of death plaque from First World War

First World War death plaque

A death plaque like this would be given to the next of kin of people who were killed in action, killed in accidents, died of disease or were missing in action and presumed killed because no body was found, during the First World War. Over a million of these plaques were produced, commemorating the sacrifice of men and women who died between 4 August 1914 and 30 April 1920. People called them the 'dead man's penny,' or the 'widow's penny.'

There was a competition to design the Death plaque. Approximately 800 designs were submitted and the competition was won by a sculptor and medallist called Edward Carter Preston. His design was called ‘Pyramus’. This depicts an image of a woman - Britannia - holding a trident and standing with a lion. In her left hand Britannia holds an oak wreath above the rectangular tablet bearing the deceased name cast in raised letters. The name does not include rank, since there was to be no distinction between sacrifices made by different individuals. Two dolphins swim around Britannia, symbolising Britain’s sea power and at the bottom another lion is tearing apart a German Eagle. Around the picture it reads “He died for freedom and honour”, or for the 600 plaques issued to commemorate women, “She died for freedom and honour”.