Alternative Name(s): Death Plaque, The King's Penny, Dead Man's Penny
Bronze Next of Kin memorial plaque, plaque awarded to Captain George J. Greenshields to commemorate his death in World War I.
Bronze Next of Kin memorial plaques were issued to the family of each member of the British Imperial Forces who died in World War I. This example commemorates Australian Captain George Jerrard Greenshields. Son of George James and Annie J. Greenshields of Napier St, Ballarat, George Greenshields served in the 7th Brigade of the Australian Field Artillery (service number 1536). He was mentioned in dispatches, including a dispatch on 18 September 1917, which said 'Has displayed exceptional ability, courage, and devotion to duty in the Field. He has served with the Brigade since its formation, and the Battyer to which he belonged - until recently appointed Adjutant - materially benefitted by his qualities of leadership and ability. Under heavy shellfire he has displayed the greatest coolness, and has invariably set a splendid example to his Unit in this regard'.
Greenshields was 22 years old when he was killed in action 1 April 1918. He was buried at 833 Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L'Abbe, France (grave reference number VII. A. 25.). He was cited in the London Gazette on 28 May 1918, page 6201, position 23 and in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 24 October 1918, page 2055, position 114.
A circular bronze plaque (120 mm diameter). It features Britannia, classically robed and helmeted, standing facing right, holding a modest laurel wreath crown in her extended left hand and supporting a trident by her right side with her right arm and hand. In the foreground a male lion stands facing right; the animal was originally described as 'striding forward in a menacing attitude' which may explain its unusually low profile. Above the lion's head is a rectangular panel containing the name of the deceased, GEORGE JERRARD GREENSHIELDS. To the right of Britannia's head and by the side of her right arm is a small dolphin, a reference to British sea-power. At the lower right edge is a branch of oak leaves and acorns. Around the edge, HE + DIED + FOR + FREEDOM + + AND + HONOUR. In exergue, in symbolic confrontation, a lion pounces on an eagle: a reference to the desired destruction of the Central Powers. E Carter Preston's initials, ECRP, were embossed above the lion's right forepaw.
Statement of Significance:
Memorial plaques of this sort were devised by the British government during World War I to commemorate the fallen and boost lagging morale. In 1916 a committee was established by Secretary of State for War, David Lloyd George, to consider what form the memorial should take for those who died 'on active service'. The Committee included two peers, six Members of Parliament, and representatives for the Dominions, the India Office, the Colonial Office and the Admiralty. A specialist sub-committee assisted with artistic and technical detail, and included the directors of the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum.
In August 1917 a public design competition was advertised, with a £500 prize pool. Entrants were advised that 'The design should comprehend a subject and a brief inscription. It is suggested that some symbolical figure subject should be chosen but the following inscription has been decided upon: 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR' and this must form part of the design.' A space for the deceased's name was to be included. It was later decided that a scroll would also be presented. Over 800 entries were received from Britain and beyond. The first prize, of £250, for two model designs, was awarded on 24 January 1918 to Edward Carter Preston, Sandon Studios Society, Liverpool. The lion in his depiction was originally 'striding forward in a menacing attitude' but was later given a more benign posture.
Production of the plaques began in December 1918, but had a troubled history. The plaques were first made in London's 'Memorial Plaque Factory' managed by American engineer and entrepreneur Manning Pike, then his monopoly was terminated and the plaques began to be made Woolwich Arsenal and other former munitions factories. Production was finally was placed back in the hands of Pike, by which time standards had declined. It is estimated that about 1,150,000 specimens were made.
The plaques commemorated those men and women who died between 4 August 1914 and 10 January 1920, for Home Establishments, Western Europe and the Dominions. Deaths in other theatres of war (including Russia) or for those who died subsequently was 30 April 1920.
Donation from Mr J. A. Greenshields, 18 Mar 1981
GEORGE JERRARD GREENSHIELDS HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR
Type of item
Exhibition Collection Management
120 mm (Outside Diameter)
3 mm (Height), 120 mm (Outside Diameter)
Measurement From Conservation.