(see also "PLAQUE HISTORY")
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.
few words here in defence of casualty medal collectors, who are often unfairly
regarded as morbid-minded Cranks or Magpies, motivated by financial investment
potential, or just plain obsessive compulsive anorak types. Whilst this is
true of some, the majority of collectors have great reverence for all casualty
medals. The collector is merely a keeper; a transient being with temporary
possession for as long as they live (or their finances permit). They are supplied
in their interest by descendants of "The Fallen", who choose to
dispose of their heritage for want of interest or cash. All Plaques &
medals were intended to kept by the families & their descendants, in the
words of the Memorial Scroll: "Let those who come after see to it
that his name be not forgotten". In this mission many families failed
& sadly this continues, more so as the modern trend of fragmented families
& attendant distractions reduce those feelings of connection, debt, honour,
sacrifice & remembrance.
Think again if you hold a low opinion of medal collectors; essentially, they preserve the artefacts & memories of "The Fallen".
As a direct result of the public sale of WW1 Memorial plaques, we have found a number of uncommemorated servicemen. During the process of sale, the seller is usually wise to state the service details of the man named on the plaque. The omission of details is usually for two main reasons: (1) The name is too common & a number of men with that same name died (without the provenance of the man's medals or scroll, it is impossible to say for which man the plaque was originally cast). (2) The name does not appear in the Commission's records & therefore defeats easy effort at identification. Plaques in both these categories are usually billed as "unresearched" or state the multiple recipient options. The absence of provenance has a detrimental effect on most buyers, who tend to steer clear of anything not verified in the Commission's records. Consequently, many plaques which 'unofficially' commemorate WW1 casualties meet poorer prices.
We present here examples of Memorial Plaques which show all aspects of both official & 'unofficial' commemorations of WW1 casualties:-
112518 Sapper Richard ELLISON, 172nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, KIA 14/2/16 in the Ypres salient.
Ellison's medals & plaque were purchased by a former Commission employee
in the late 1980s. He was correctly listed in 'Soldiers Died in the Great
War' & yet the Commission had no record of him. His commemoration was
not long in following the purchase of his medals. Unfortunately, the Commission
inscribed his name on the Arras Memorial Addenda, when in fact it should have
been placed on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, as were his comrades who died
the same day: 112673 Spr. Percy William DIXON & 112863 Spr. Samuel SMITH,
both of the 172nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers.
This the earliest case we have of a Memorial Plaque leading to a commemoration.
31905 Pte. Sykes Dobson, 2/6th Battalion, North Staffs Regt. Died whilst POW between 25/3/18 & 25/6/18.
Sykes Dobson's plaque was passed to us by a medal dealer in South Yorkshire who was unable to find any WW1 casualty of that name. He was not listed 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' & the Commission had no record of him, but it was not difficult to find details at the PRO. His Medal Index Card was present, also full service papers were found in WO/363. The Commission have accepted him for commemoration, but have not yet added his name to the relevant Memorial addenda panel in France.
573327 Pte. Arthur Person, 193rd Labour Coy., Labour Corps. Died from TB 17/2/19. Formerly 5299 Pte. 2/4th West Riding Regt. & 29317 Pte. 2nd Garrison Bn. KOYLI.
Arthur Person's plaque was bought at the Aldershot Medal Fair in 2003. The seller stated "not on CWGC, needs research". As with Sykes Dobson above, he was not listed 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' & the Commission had no record of him; his Medal Index Card was present & full service papers found in WO/363. The Commission have accepted him for commemoration, but have not yet added his name to the relevant Memorial panel at Brookwood.
DAVID JAMES BONES
Ch/303890 Stoker 1st Class David James Bones RN. A Dangerous Lunatic, died from General Paralysis of the Insane (one year) whilst detained in the RN Lunatic Hospital, Great Yarmouth, 6/1/18.
Bones' plaque & 1914-15 Trio were bought on E-bay in Sept. 2004. The Commission has no record of him. He was discharged invalided for "Insanity" 28/3/17 & committed to the RN Asylum at Great Yarmouth. He enlisted in the RN 21/4/1903 & served continuously until his discharge in March 1917. His case has been forwarded to the Commission.
ADM/188 RN Service Sheet. At bottom right it reads: "Admitted to Yarmouth Hosp. as a dangerous lunatic from R.N. Hosp. Chatham. MD373/18 Died in Yarmouth Hosp. on 6 January 1918."
WILLIAM ROBERT BEAZLEY
5120 A/Sgt.(Cpl.) William Robert Beazley, 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, Died after Discharge 12/06/18 (Chelsea Pensioner No.42871/D). Discharged Invalided 8/9/15 for Tuberculosis of Right Lung, originated 5/7/15 at Curragh.
William Robert Beazley's plaque & other items shown here, were bought on E-bay in August 2004. He is not listed in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' & the Commission has no record of him. His full service papers were found in WO/364. Although his illness was stated as "aggravated by service" & not "attributable", the fact that he was issued a Memorial Plaque & a Pension for life would seem to indicate that someone in authority attributed his death to WW1 service. The Commission have accepted him for commemoration, but have not yet added his name to the relevant Memorial panel at Brookwood.
SIR JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS Bart.
Commander Sir John Everett Millais Bart. RN, Died 30/09/20 at Leacon
Hall, Warehorne, Kent, from (1) Septicaemia 21 days. (2) Septic Encephalitis.
3rd Baronet Millais (1897). Grandson of Sir John Everett Millais Bart. 1829-1896, 1st Baronet Millais (1885), Founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 1847 & Director of the Royal Academy 1896.
Lt.Cdr. Sir John Millais' medals & plaque were purchased from a private collector in 2004. Sir John Millais joined the RN as a Midshipman in 1905. In 1912 with the rank of Lieutenant RN, he was placed on the Retired List being Medically unfit for 'Tubercle of Lung'. However, on the outbreak of war he returned to service with the Admiralty Press Bureau & later aboard the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS "Stephen Furness". In June 1916 he reverted to the Retired List at his own request due to poor health. He was Gazetted Lt.Cdr. RN in January 1919. The Commission has no record of him as a WW1 casualty. However again, the fact that he was issued a Memorial Plaque would seem to indicate that someone in authority attributed his death to WW1 service. His case has been forwarded to the Commission.
AUGUST 2007, CASE REJECTED BY MoD, CAUSE OF DEATH NOT ATTRIBUTABLE TO SERVICE
The Plaque in St. Matthew's Church, Warehorne.
Leacon Hall, Warehorne, Kent, December 2005
Oast House, Leacon Hall, Warehorne, Kent, December 2005
Weather Vane erected as a Memorial to Sir John
Sir John's grave in Brookwood Cemetery.
MALCOLM DOUGLAS CRAWFURTH-SMITH
Pte. Malcolm Douglas Crawfurth-Smith, 2nd Bn. Royal Sussex Regt.; Formerly
11738 Pte. Inns of Court OTC (not commissioned), 267027 6/Res. RFA (TF) &
267027 23 Arty. Bde.
Died in Sandpoint, Bonner, Idaho, USA, on 1st March 1922.
Crawfurth-Smith's plaque was purchased on E-bay in 2004. The Commission has no record of him as a WW1 casualty, as he died after the Commission's cut-off-date of 31st August 1921.
ERNEST LAWRENCE COOKE
London 4/3282 AB Ernest Lawrence Cooke RNVR, Late of the Collingwood Bn., Died 13/04/26 in the Consumption Hospital, Kensington, from Pulmonary Tuberculosis.
AB Cooke's plaque & medals reside in a private collection in the UK. His is a superb example of a plaque that was issued for a death which occurred in 1926! His mother was issued a Bronze Memorial Plaque as his death was deemed attributable to War service. He undoubtedly contracted TB whilst a POW in Germany 1914-18. This plaque proves the fact that Memorial Plaques were still being issued for deaths of ex-servicemen up to 1926 (up to 1930 if reports are correct). The Commission does not list him as a WW1 casualty, as he died nearly five years after their cut-off-date (but perhaps they should? The argument of the cut-off date injustice & apparent contradiction in official & unofficial commemoration must wait till another day).
Any information regarding the identification of, or any other enquiries about the Plaques shown on this site are welcome. Please use the e-mail link in the menu.
Here are a selection of readers plaques which have defeated our initial attempts at identification. Help please.
WALTER JOHN JOSEPH BOWLES
little has been discovered about this man, but his birth certificate has been
traced which states the following:- born 23 Woodfield Place, St. Mary's,
Paddington 29th October 1900. Son of Walter Henry & Louise Henrietta Bowles
If the birth certificate is correct, this boy would not have been old enough to serve overseas in 1918. It is believed that he may have enlisted under-age with an alias & that alias is not listed/cross-referenced in the CWGC Registers.
THOMAS ROSKELLY BATE
The owner informs us "there is a Rupert Spence on the 1901 census records aged 6, so right age for WW1, Royston Herts, Parish: Cann Hall." This is an Acton manufactured Plaque & we therefore conclude that Rupert Spence died before December 1920. Not found in UK Death Certificate indexes 1914-1924.
informs us:- "Rupert Spence (of the 1901 census) was my grandfather
and is not the Rupert Spence on the unidentified plaque. He died in 1976."
WILLIAM JOHN GREGG