Dead Man’s Penny – Memorial Death Plaque

By: Laura Suchan and Jennifer Weymark

This article has been edited from what originally appeared in the AGS Quarterly

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Headstone in Union Cemetery, Oshawa

The Government of Canada has designated the period 2014-2020 as the official commemoration period of the World Wars and of the brave men and women who served and sacrificed on behalf of their country. One of the most enduring examples of war commemoration  is the bronze “Dead Man’s Penny” seen on many gravestones in cemeteries across Canada. The plaques, resembling a large penny (hence their nickname), were given to families who had lost a loved one as a result of WW1.

Canada entered WW1 on August 4, 1914 when the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. At the time, Canada was a British dominion and therefore subject to foreign policy decisions made by the British parliament.  During the course of the war over 619 000 Canadians enlisted and almost 60 000 lost their lives.

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Memorial Scroll for Private Wilfred Lawrence Bancroft. Courtesy of the Whitby Archives

In 1916, as the Great War waged on, the British Government felt there was a need to create a memorial to be given to the families of the war dead which would acknowledge their sacrifice. A committee headed by the Secretary of the War Office, Sir Reginald Brade was created and given the task of deciding what form this memorial would take.  The committee, decided on a bronze plaque officially known as the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque and a memorial scroll signed by the King.

In 1917, a competition, open to any British born person, was held to find a design for the plaque. Instructions for the competition were published in The Times newspaper on August 13, 1917 listing the stipulations for entry.  For example, any design had to include a symbolic figure, meaningful to British citizens.  Potential designs must also include the inscription “He died for freedom and honour” and provide space to include the name, initials and military unit of the deceased.

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An example of the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque or Dead Man’s Penny. Photo courtesy of the Ontario Regiment Museum

There were more than 800 entries submitted and Mr. Edward  Preston was the successful winner. His design, a 12 centimetre disk cast in bronze gunmetal, featured the figure of Britannia holding a laurel wreath beneath which was a rectangular tablet where the deceased individual’s name was cast into the plaque. No rank was included as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice.  The required inscription “He died for freedom and honour” was inscribed along the outer edge of the disk. In front of Britannia stands a lion and, two dolphins representing Britain’s sea power.  A smaller lion is depicted biting into an eagle, the emblem of Imperial Germany.  With the conclusion of the war, over 1.3 million plaques were sent to grieving families throughout the British Empire. Plaques were sent to the next of kin for all soldiers, sailors, airmen and women sailors, airmen and women serving who died as a direct consequence of their service. Plaques were also sent to the next of kin of those who died between August 4, 1914 and April 30, 1919 as a result of sickness, suicide or accidents, or as a result of wounds sustained during their time of service.

The plaques soon became popularly known as “the Dead Man’s Penny”, or “Widow’s Penny” for their resemblance to the penny coin. There was no formalized etiquette for displaying the plaques.  According to Sam Richardson, assistant curator at the Ontario Regiment Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, some families chose to do very little with the plaques, the memorial scrolls and King’s messages that came with them. Often these plaques would be hidden away in drawers or chests so as not to be reminders of their loved ones.  Others, however, went to great lengths to display it, with many families adding them to war memorials as they were built, or framed and mounted on walls in the family home or in a local community establishment the soldier was a part of, such as a church parish.  As more time passed and military museums began to be established and grow, many descendants would also choose to donate the plaques to them.

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Pvt. William James Garrow Jr.   A995.8.33

The family of Oshawa, Ontario resident William Garrow Jr.  decided a permanent home for his memorial plaque was most fitting and they chose to have it mounted into a gravestone.   Garrow was born on May 15, 1894 to William and Mary Garrow, the youngest of four children and the only surviving son.

At the time he enlisted, Garrow had been working as an upholsterer and living with his parents and two sisters in the family home on Albert Street. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Montreal on August 30, 1915 at the age of 21. He saw action overseas  in both France and Belgium.  Garrow joined up with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the Princess Pats, as a replacement on the front lines in December 1915.  He was fighting with the Princess Pats at that Battle of Mount Sorrell when he lost his life sometime between June 2–4, 1916. The family received official word of his death through a telegram. Although the final resting place of Pvt. William Garrow is unknown, he is memorialized as one of the missing on the Menin Gate in Ypres Belgium.

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Garrow Memorial Plaque

The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque received by William Garrow’s family remains today  embedded in his tombstone in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery. It remains as a testament, over a hundred years later,  to a young man’s supreme sacrifice  and the depth of pride his family felt in his service to King and country.

This article was published on the Oshawa Museum Blog

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Archives Awareness Week 2018

The first week of April is celebrated as Archives Awareness Week in Ontario.

For Archives Awareness Week 2018, DRAAG is hosting an Open House of the beautiful Campus Library and Archives at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College (DC).

Join us for an evening of socializing, networking and touring through the library and archives.  Chat with Archival Technician Brenda Jackson about the collections at held UOIT / DC.  View items from their Windfields Farm collection. Network with other area archivist and socialize with like-minded community members.

6:00 – 6:30 Welcome from Catherine Davidson, University Librarian and Chief Librarian 6:30 – 8:00 Tour of the archives, visit displays and socializing.

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The image comes from the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum.  The photograph is of the first overseas draft of the 2nd Depot Battalion, 2nd Central Ontario Regiment.

A Depot Battalion were created to train later recruits and draftees who would be shipped to Canadian Reserve Battalions in England.  Each Depot Battalion provided reinforcements to Battalions currently overseas.

The 2nd Depot Battalion, 2nd Central Ontario Regiment was authorized by General Order 2 of 2 January 1917 and by General Order 57 of 15 April 1918. The recruits were sent to reinforce the 54th, 116th, 125th and 164th Battalions through the 2nd Canadian Reserve Battalion.

Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel A .J. McCausland

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Pre-Conference Symposium

Registration Now Open For the “Series Symposium” AAO Pre-Conference Event

Date: Tuesday April 25, 2017

Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Location: City of Toronto Archives (255 Spadina Road – near Dupont subway station)

Coffee/tea and lunch will be provided!

The series system is a method of archival arrangement that separates descriptions of records from descriptions of record creators, allowing greater continuity and the ability to capture multiple provenance over time. Developed in Australia, only a few institutions in Canada have adopted it.

Institutions that have implemented the system, or an iteration of the system, will share their perspectives and lessons learned, and will also discuss the challenges and future directions of the series system through a combination of presentations in the morning and panel discussions in the afternoon.

Confirmed presentations/participants include Archivist of Ontario John Roberts, the Archives of Ontario, Library and Archives Canada, and the City of Ottawa Archives.

We invite all archivists and institutions who are interested in the subject to participate and attend.

To register and view an agenda, please click on the Eventbrite link: https://seriessymposium.eventbrite.ca 

Please note that there will be an Adobe Connects and teleconference line for those who cannot physically attend the symposium. Once you’ve registered via Eventbrite, you will be sent an e-mail with details and links on how to connect prior to April 25th. 

For questions please contact Aaron Hope at aaron.hope@ontario.ca 

Cost: Free.

The symposium is hosted by the Archives of Ontario and Library and Archives Canada. The presentations will be in English only.

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Ajax Archives – 1967

The development of the Town of Ajax can be directly tied to World War II and the location of Defence Industries Limited (DIL), the largest shell filling plant in the British Commonwealth. Given that the town did not exist in 1867, the year of Confederation, there is nothing in the holdings about that eventful year.

However, the Town of Ajax was around in 1967 and celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Confederation with a parade.

For more information on the archival collection for the Town of Ajax, visit History, Heritage and Archives. 

1967 - 1867 Float Celebrating Canada's 100th

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Northumberland County Archives – 1867 and 1967

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On January 9, 1967, Cobourg town council held their inaugural meeting in the courtroom of Victoria Hall dressed in authentic reproduction costumes reminiscent of the 1867 period.

IMG_0890Minutes from the 1867 town council meeting were read by the town clerk, J.B Ewart, as a course of re-enacting what had transpired at council 100 years ago. The Northumberland County Archives also holds contemporaneous council minutes for the Townships of Alnwick/Haldimand and Cramahe and the Town and Municipality of Brighton in its collection.

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Lenah Fisher, Deputy-Reeve of Cobourg in 1967, served on town council as her grandfather, John C. Field had done in 1867. Ms. Fisher is remembered and cherished in Cobourg for her feisty personality, political engagement, (she served a total of 16 years on town council), and significant contributions to heritage preservation in Cobourg. Ms. Fisher was a champion of the Victoria Hall Restoration project, successfully fighting against the demolition of the iconic town hall built in 1860.

Victoria Hall

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The Northumberland County Archives has a large collection of newspapers from the Cobourg World and Cobourg Sentinel dating back to the 1840s. Reeve Wib Thomas and Mayor Jack Heenan are pictured here reading a 1967 photo-lithographic reproduction of the Friday, July 5th, 1867 edition of the Cobourg World. The issue includes an article which accounts

To learn more about Northumberland County in 1867 up to today, please visit the archives.

Northumberland County Archives.

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Whitby Archives – 1867 and 1967

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In 1867, the Town of Whitby threw a big party to celebrate Canada’s first birthday on July 1. The plan for Dominion Day was printed in local newspapers and 8000 people came from the surrounding area to take part in the festivities. 

The day consisted of a mock battle performed by the 34th Ontario Regiment, speeches, a pic-nic, field games, and a torch-lit parade in the evening. Perhaps the most exciting feature of the day was the feu de joie, a 350-gun salute in honour of the new nation!  

Read the rest of the program which appeared in the Whitby Chronicle on June 20, 1867.

 

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To mark the beginning of Canada’s Centennial year in 1967, Whitby’s political elites celebrated with a costume party at Leslie and Bea McFarlane’s house on New Year’s Eve. Leslie McFarlane penned some of the first Hardy Boys novels and lived at 121 Green Street in Whitby. 

The rest of Whitby celebrated Canada’s 100th birthday with a parade and a 100-gun salute in honour of the original feu de joie in 1867. 

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