One hundred years ago today on the first day of the Battle of the Somme the British army alone suffered 57, 470 casualties , 19,240 of them were killed or died of their injuries. Aged 19 Private Cyril Key of the 96th company of the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) was one of those killed.
Cyril was the son of Thomas and Annie Key, of 9, Doddington, Cleobury Mortimer, Kidderminster. His body was not recovered but he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
Together with the sampler is a “memorial plaque”.
The Memorial Plaque was issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.
The plaques (which could be described as large plaquettes) were made of bronze, and hence popularly known as the “Dead Man’s Penny”, because of the similarity in appearance to the somewhat smaller penny coin. 1,355,000 plaques were issued, which used a total of 450 tonnes of bronze, and continued to be issued into the 1930s to commemorate people who died as a consequence of the war.
An image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion. The designer’s initials, E.CR.P., appear above the front paw. In her left outstretched left hand Britannia holds an olive wreath above the rectangular tablet bearing the deceased’s name cast in raised letters. Below the name tablet, to the right of the lion, is an oak spray with acorns. The name does not include the rank since there was to be no distinction between sacrifices made by different individuals. Two dolphins swim around Britannia, symbolizing Britain’s sea power, and at the bottom a second lion is tearing apart the German eagle. The reverse is blank, making it a plaquette rather than a table medal. Around the picture the legend reads (in capitals) “He died for freedom and honour”, or for the six hundred plaques issued to commemorate women, “She died for freedom and honour”.
The plaques were issued in a pack with a commemorative scroll from King George V; though sometimes the letter and scroll were sent first.
More than one million men were wounded or killed in The Battle of the Somme making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. HERE is a story about a mother who lost three sons.
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