This WWI memorial death plaque, or as it was commonly called ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, acknowledges the sacrifice made by a soldier killed during the Great War. Unlike other awards which represented bravery and honour, this one represents loss.
It features a standing figure of Britannia, holding a trident and wreath, surrounded by dolphins, a lion at her feet, with the inscription around the edge: HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR. There is also an oblong panel below the wreath, where the name of the individual is recorded, being cast into each medallion, rather than engraved afterwards. There is no rank with the name, to signify equality of sacrifice.
This medallion was sent to the family of Albert Brown who was killed in 1917. The Brown family ran a large farm in Waikanae and small rural communities in the young developing nation of New Zealand could ill afford to lose such members of their workforce.
The medallions were sent ‘from the King’ to the relatives of the soldier, and over one million were produced. Some families did not appreciate the gesture as it resembled a coin – their loved one’s life was worth considerably more than ‘a penny’.