Nice Plaque to:-
Cdr. The Honourable Richard Orlando Beaconsfield Bridgeman DSO RN
HMS "Hyacinth" died 9th January 1917
The Bronze Memorial Plaque issued to the Next of Kin of those who died during WW1 (or those who died later from causes attributable to service), has long been the focal part of casualty medal groups for WW1 collectors. The presence of a Plaque, along with the medals & Memorial Scroll (if lucky, in their original packaging), complete a highly prized set for the collector.
We present here some useful information from our study of plaques, to dispel myths, aid researchers & generally inform those who have always wondered what the score was regarding these plaques.
A specimen plaque manufactured at the Acton Plaque Factory
were cast at two factories from early 1919 until the early 1930s.
The MEMORIAL PLAQUE FACTORY, 54/56 CHURCH ROAD, ACTON, W.3., cast the first plaques from early 1919 until about December 1920, when production was shifted to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich .
An example of an early Acton Plaque Factory envelope
From about December 1920 onwards the manufacture of all Plaques was shifted to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.
of a Woolwich Plaque Section envelope.
Chief Superintendent of Ordnance Factories (Plaque Section), Royal Arsenal, London S.E.18.
ACTON OR WOOLWICH MANUFACTURE?
It is fairly
easy to tell where any plaque was manufactured, from the numbers & stamps
ACTON Plaques at first carried no numbers, but soon adopted the use of a number stamped behind the lion's rearmost foot:-
An Acton Plaque with number stamped behind the lion's foot.
All WOOLWICH Plaques bear a number between the lion's leg & tail:-
A Woolwich Plaque with number stamped between leg & tail.
All WOOLWICH Plaques have a combination "WA" stamp on the reverse:-
Manufacturing stamp on the reverse of all "Woolwich Arsenal" plaques
Common to both plaque types are the initials of the artist who designed the plaque, Edward Carter-Preston (E.CR.P.)
Edward Carter-Preston's initials are cast into every plaque
It is simple
therefore to identify where any given plaque was made, merely from looking
at these stamps & numbers.
An ACTON Plaque may have no numbers or stamps, or may have a number stamped behind the lion's rearmost leg.
A WOOLWICH Plaque will always have a number stamped between the lion's leg & tail & will always have the "WA" combo stamp on the reverse.
The true function of the stamped numbers is not known, however, it might be safely assumed that they identified the work of a given Founder/Bronze Casting worker & were part of quality control.
Some might ask if there is any purpose to knowing which factory produced any given plaque. There is indeed. The problem of trying to trace a man named on a plaque & whose details are unknown, can be simplified if it is an ACTON Plaque, because the man must therefore have died before December 1920. Also, no plaques to Naval casualties have ever been observed as made at ACTON & one can therefore eliminate Naval casualties from the investigation (There is one lone report of an ACTON plaque to a Naval recipient with a unique name, but we have not seen it & have never seen any ACTON plaques to Naval casualties).
H" & "NARROW H"
aka "BIG H" & "LITTLE H"
of the letter "H" appear on plaques (the "H"
in "HE DIED").
ACTON Plaques always have a "WIDE H".
WOOLWICH Plaques may have either type.
Narrow & Wide "H" plaques, both cast at the Woolwich Arsenal.
Why are there
two types of "H" on plaques?
In the original design by Edward Carter-Preston, he used the "Wide H" throughout. However, when the Woolwich factory came to alter the design to provide for the female "SHE DIED" plaques, they found insufficient space for the "S" between the lion's leg & the existing wide "H". Carter-Preston was recalled to alter the design & make room for the addition of the "S" & this was done by simply narrowing the "H". When the very short "SHE DIED" production run was completed (only about 1500), the moulds were reused by removing the "S".
All "SHE DIED" plaques were cast at the Woolwich Arsenal & all have the number "11" stamped between leg & tail.
DIED" Plaque spied on E-bay
218894 Member Ivy Pretoria May Hibberd WRAF
Died 6th November 1918
TYPE SMALL "H"?
The "Narrow H" type plaque is often mistakenly referred to as the "Naval type small H". This is utter nonsense, although it would be true to say that the majority of Naval plaques have the narrow "H". In reality, Naval plaques can have either a wide or a narrow "H". Army plaques too may have either type, but the Narrow "H" appears to be more common for Territorial units, Royal Engineers & the Royal Fusiliers/London Regiments.
Below are five examples of unique name plaques manufactured at Woolwich to men of the Royal Navy with the wide type "H":-
Pte. Percy Marriner RMLI, 2nd RM Battn.
Pte. Alfred Joseph Henry Tuppen RMLI, 2nd RM Battn.
Pte. Richmond Nelson RMLI, 2nd RM Battn.
Pte. Francis Will Stevens RMLI, 1st RM Battn.
Died in 6th Stationary Hospital from Accidental Injuries 16/10/18 (wounded accidentally 30/9/18).
Sir John Everett Millais Bt. RN
Died 30/9/20 at Leacon Hall, Warehorne, Kent, from Septic Poisoning.
Below is an example of an Army Narrow "H" unique name plaque manufactured at Woolwich:-
Pte. Sykes Dobson, 2/6th Battalion, North Staffs Regt.
Died whilst POW between 25/3/18 & 25/6/18.
Contrary to popular opinion, Memorial Plaques continued to be issued to men who died from causes attributable to service up to the early 1930s. The New Zealand Government are reputed to have issued plaques well into the 1930s.
Below are two examples of late issue plaques to men with unique names:-
Pte. Malcolm Douglas Crawfurth-Smith, 2nd Bn. Royal Sussex Regt.
Died in Sandpoint, Bonner, Idaho, USA, on 1st March 1922.
4/3282 AB Ernest Lawrence Cooke RNVR, Collingwood Bn., R.N.D.
Died 13th April 1926 in the Consumption Hospital, Kensington, from Pulmonary Tuberculosis.
The plaque shown above was cast at Woolwich in late 1926/early 1927. The quality & definition are of exceptional quality compared to the standard Woolwich product of 1920-24. It is believed that a new mould was used to cast this plaque, due to production having virtually ceased by this time.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The names cast in some Memorial Plaques can cause problems in their identification. There are some who believe that only the name the man "served as" could be cast, despite the man's true name being slightly or totally different, having served under an alias or a misspelling of his name. It would appear that the early issue plaques tend to adhere to this rule, however later issue plaques cast at Woolwich could carry any name the Next-of-kin chose, usually his 'true' birth name. Names sometimes tally with the CWGC's records, but more often than not, they conflict.
Below are several examples of name anomalies found on Memorial Plaques:-
Pte. Frank BUCKLE RMLI (served as Frank BUCKELL)
1st Royal Marine Battalion, R.N.D.
Died of Enteric in RN Hospital Haslar 30th September 1915
with correct spelling "BUCKLE" from "Berkshire & the War
Right: His Memorial Plaque also carries the correct spelling
Reverse of Buckle's 1914-15 Star with his "served as" misspelt name
The CWGC correctly record Buckle's surname, but have erroneous unit details, recording him as "HMS Lowestoft, R.N. Div." Buckle served aboard HMS Lowestoft 3/9/14-22/7/15 but transferred to the R.N.D. in July 1915. He joined the 1st Royal Marine Battalion at Gallipoli on 2nd September 1915, but very soon fell ill, reporting to the 1st (RN) Field Ambulance at Cape Helles with Pneumonia on the 7th September. He was invalided to the UK on the 18th September now suffering from with Enteric & died shortly after arrival in the UK at the RN Hospital Haslar on the 30th of September.
Frank Buckle enlisted under-age in the RMLI on 7th October 1912. He stated he was born in 1895 & was 17 years of age. He was actually born in 1896 & was only age 16. The reason for his misspelt name was not due to any attempt on his part to disguise his 'mis-statement as to age', rather the fault of a poor education. Buckle's attestation paper is in the name of "BUCKELL" but shows his first signature was altered from "BUCKLE" to "BUCKELL" & his second signature as "BUCKELL". He was noted as a "Poor Scholar" & this is evidenced by an example of his handwriting with many spelling mistakes. The official term for this kind of error was "Man signed in Ignorance".
Buckle's case illustrates that a man could serve under a misspelt surname, but the Memorial Plaque, as do the CWGC, can carry the correct spelling. Buckle's three medals are all named "BUCKELL".
Sapper Thomas James Ernest Stanley ROBSON RM
1st Field Company, Divisional Engineers, R.N.D.
Killed in action 28th May 1915
This plaque at first defeated attempts at identification. However, it was soon discovered that the CWGC list this man as "T.E.S. Robson", omitting his second initial "J" (they also incorrectly record his date of death as 27th May). As it happens, Sapper Robson also omitted his second forename on enlistment for reasons unknown. Below is his RND Index Card:-
Confirmation of Sapper Robson's true name was obtained from his birth certificate which carries his full name "Thomas James Ernest Stanley Robson". This case proves that his Next-of-kin was able to have his Plaque cast with his full 'birth' name, probably by providing a copy of his birth certificate, & despite him having served as "TES Robson" only.
Pte. Frederick Charles RAYBOULD RMLI
1st Royal Marine Bn., R.N.D.
Killed in action 28th April 1917
There is only one "Frederick Raybould" listed with the CWGC, the Royal Marine named in the above title. Investigations showed that Raybould enlisted as "Frederick Raybould" omitting his middle name, & he stated he was born in Lye, Worcester 8/4/1882. His birth certificate confirms his true full name was "Frederick Charles Raybould" & his true date of birth was 29/7/1879. Raybould was too old to serve in September 1914 & took three years off his age to qualify to enlist. He was one of many men who enlisted "over-age", but one hears very little about them, overshadowed as they are by the 'boy' soldiers who enlisted underage
It is believed that Raybould's Next-of-kin provided his birth certificate to the Plaque issuing authorities & his full name was therefore cast in his plaque. They chose not to correct the CWGC record nor did they return any details to the CWGC for inclusion in the Arras Memorial Register.
Pte. William James MARLOW RMLI
Portsmouth Battalion, R.N.D.
Killed in action 20th July 1915
This plaque was at first suspected to be an error. There is no man named "William James Marlow" on the CWGC, but there is a "James William Marlow". Further investigations showed that he was born 21/2/1896 as "William James Marlow" but on the 1901 Census was named as "James Marlow". He enlisted in April 1914 as "James William Marlow" & gave his date of birth as 21/2/1897.
Again, the birth certificate is thought to have provided the datum for the plaque naming & again the Next-of-kin appear to have chosen not to correct the CWGC Record nor return details for the Helles Memorial Register.
Z/6550 Able Seaman Alexander Mercer KIRKPATRICK RNVR
Hawke Bn., R.N.D.
Killed in action 3rd September 1918
The CWGC record this man as "Alexander Kirkpatrick" only. He enlisted & served as "Alexander Kirkpatrick" but evidently he was born "Alexander Mercer Kirkpatrick" & this was cast into his plaque. He was one of four brothers who served during WW1, three of whom were killed in action. All four brothers' medals & plaques reside in a private collection in the UK. His Next-of-kin appear to have chosen not to correct the CWGC Record nor return details for the Cemetery Register.
Three of four brothers killed in action
S/2370 Pte. James Kirkpatrick, 10th Battn. Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders KIA 25/9/15
7958 Private William Kirkpatrick, 2nd Bn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) KIA 10/3/15
Clyde Z/6550 AB Alexander Mercer Kirkpatrick RNVR, Hawke Bn., R.N.D., KIA 3/9/18
42940 Sapper Thomas Kirkpatrick, Royal Engineers (survived)
Pte. Charlie Maurice CROCKER
1st/6th Battalion The Essex Regt.
Died Beirut 16th November 1918
The above plaque is very interesting as it provides an opposite case to those shown so far. He enlisted & served as "Charles Morris Crocker" but the CWGC record his name as "Charlie Maurice Crocker". His Next-of-kin appear to have communicated this to the CWGC but not to the plaque issuing authorities. The name he "served as" appears to have been adhered to in this case.
A few examples of mistakes in manufacture
Pte. Leonard John COLWILL
1st Battalion The Devonshire Regiment
Killed in action 23rd April 1917
Gunner James Morris McNESS
"C" Battery 173rd Brigade Royal Field Artillery
Died of wounds 6th March 1917
HERBERT HODGSON (one of five Army Other Ranks killed)
ADMINISTRATION & ISSUE
is known about the processes involved in the application, administration &
issue of Memorial Plaques. There appears to be no information available in
Public Records, but this is thought to be due to the fact that the Ministry
of Pensions were the main controlling force of plaque issue. The MoP do not
release their records to the public domain & we may therefore never know
the answer to some of the most basic questions:-
Who was the first plaque issued to?
What criteria decided the order of issue?
Why the Navy appear to have been the last to be catered for?
The exact number of plaques issued? (this is known to be far above the number recorded by the CWGC)
All that can be found regarding this subject in Public Records is a standard "Army Form W. 5080" amongst the WO/363 Army service papers at the National Archives. This form appears to have been sent to the Next-of-kin in order to dispose of both the plaque & scroll post manufacture & does not allow for any change of the details on the plaque. The rest is self explanatory:-
One other item involved in Plaque issue/receipt appeared on E-bay recently. The receipt shown below was not returned to the Woolwich factory & shows that each soldier was logged/listed under an individual number (196425 in this case).