The Dead Man's Penny

The Dead Man's Penny as it was known, was a memorial plaque issued to the families of soldiers of the British Empire who were killed in battle during the first world war.

The round bronze Memorial Plaque is 120mm in diameter. It bears the inscription: "He died for freedom and honour". The full name of the dead soldier is engraved on the right hand side of the plaque. No rank, unit or decorations are shown, befitting the equality of the sacrifice made by all casualties. The bronze medallion features an image of Lady Britannia surrounded by two dolphins (representing Britain’s seapower) and a lion (representing Britain) standing over a defeated eagle (symbolising Germany).

The shape and appearance of the plaque earned it nicknames such as the "Dead Man's Penny", the "Death Penny", and the "Widow's Penny".


Some of these Pennies have been passed down through generations, some are held in collections in museums and RSLs, , some are embedded into gravestones, some have been lost over the years and some were never collected.

Each "Penny" represented loss and sacrifice.

In 2020, The Fromelles Association of Australia were made aware that Percy Greenwood, 32nd Battalion, memorial plaque was for sale in Britain. It has likely gone to his mother in England. Having found the plaque, researchers with the Fromelles Association of Australia quickly arranged to purchase it to ensure it found a home where Percy’s story could be told and his memory preserved. With the help of Australian and United Kingdom researchers, the penny is now safely in the hands of the Association and plans are underway to find a place where it can be preserved and Percy’s contribution honoured.

The Fromelles Association is in possession of the plaque, but despite years of searching, we are still in need of Y DNA to help identify Percy. You can read Percy's soldier story here.

The memorial plaque above appeared on a UK WW1 collectables site in August 2020. Commonly known as the ‘dead man’s penny’, it is the one issued to Kezia Greenwood for her son.
source Callington Collectables website 2020

Below are a selection of Pennies the Fromelles Associations is aware of. (You can click on each soldiers name to read their soldier story.)

We are always interested in assisting families to locate the missing memorial plaques of their ancesters.

Contact us at if you would like to know more.

Charles Arblaster

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The “Dead Man’s Penny” (memorial plaque) was issued to Charles Arblaster's father as next of kin in 1922 and is now in the possession of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
source AWM REL/06480

Ernest Jentsch

Ernest Jentsch’s identification disc and at right, the memorial plaque issued to his family after the war.
source Photos: Australian War Memorial REL23648 and REL23649

Clarence Collier

The memorial plaque issued to his family after the war.
source Courtesy of Clarence’s great-nephew, David Ward

Frederick Lydiate

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Fred’s Medals and Dead Man’s Penny (Memorial Plaque) with the penny shown in close up. The Dead Man’s Penny was a commemorative medallion presented to the next of kin of those killed during World War 1; it was accompanied by a scroll from King George V.
source Courtesy of Bill Lydiate

David Anderson

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Dead Man's Penny awarded to David Samuel Anderson
source Jill Byrnes and Judith Davies

James and Mervyn Ross

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Medals and memorial plaque for James Ross (on left) and for Mervyn Ross (on right).
source Ross Bydder and the broader Ross family

Herbert "Nutsy" Bolt

The Memorial Plaque, or 'Dead Man's Penny' as it was commonly known, issued after the war to Nutsy's widow, Jennie. His war service medals were also issued to her.
source Josie Shelley

Ernest Burgess

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Service medals and Memorial Plaque (‘dead man’s penny’) for Pte Ernest Burgess 1885-1916
source Peter Tapp

Alfred Tuck

Headstone for Corporal Alfred G. Tuck at Pheasant Wood Cemetery at Fromelles including Alfred’s military medals and the memorial plaque issued to next of kin.
source Photo courtesy of Miggy191,

Henry Nelson

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The Memorial Plaque for Henry Oscar Nelson issued to his mother, Elizabeth Nelson as next of kin.

Harold Roth

Top left Memorial plaque (also known as the dead man's penny). Bottom left Addressed packaging for delivery of the medals. Middle British War Medal. Far right Victory Medal.
source Photo courtesy of Liz Mitchell

James Holmes

Memorial Plaque for Pte J. L. Holmes
source Tweed Regional Museum, MUS1997.98.2

William Cullen

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Dead Man’s Penny for William Cullen
source courtesy of John MacNeil

John Leslie Dryburgh

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Les’ Medals including his “Dead Man’s Penny”
source Family, courtesy of Greg Frost

FARLOW, Samuel

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Sam’ “Dead Man’s Penny” presented to the family
source Australian War Memorial Collections C1022222

Denzil Jolly

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Denzil Jolly's "Dead Mans Penny"
source Courtesy of Lorraine Pfitzner