Historical information

The Dead Man’s Penny is a commemorative medallion which was presented to the next-of-kin of the men and women from England and the Empire who died during World War One. The Dead Man’s Penny was accompanied by a letter from King George V, stating ‘I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War’.[http://nma.gov.au/blogs/education/2010/11/14/dead-mans-penny/]

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. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Plaque_(medallion)]

It was decided that the design of the plaque was to be picked from submissions made in a public competition. Over 800 designs were submitted and the competition was won by the sculptor and medallist Edward Carter Preston with his design called Pyramus, receiving a first place prize of £250.[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Plaque_(medallion)]

They were initially made at the Memorial Plaque Factory, 54/56 Church Road, Acton, W3, London from 1919. Early plaques did not have a number stamped on them but later ones have a number stamped behind the lion's back leg. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Plaque_(medallion)] Ted Cannon's plaquette does not have a stamped number.

Ted Cannon was a gifted artist and cartoonist who studied at the Ballarat School of Mines Technical Art School. During the Battle of Pozieres on the Western Front Ted Cannon worked with the Scout Platoon sketching the enemy's gun emplacements. Ted proved invaluable to the Brigade and brought he came under the attention of the Australian High Command. On 13 September 1916 Ted was given a special assignment for General C.B.B. White. Ted was sent out forward of the Old Mill at Verbrandenmolen (in the Ypres Salient) to draw a panorama of the German lines in the area from Hill 60 to The Bluff. It was a hazardous task and Ted was warned to be careful. Tragically he was sniped by an enemy machine-gunner and sustained severe abdominal wounds. Stretcher-bearers rushed him to the 17th Casualty Clearing Station where he was operated on by the doctors at 8.30 that night. With little chance of success, but ever resilient, Ted remained conscious almost to the end. He died early in the morning of the 14 September 1916. His body was buried in the large Military Cemetery at Lijssenthoek.

The effects of the late Ted Cannon were returned to his parents. These were an autograph book, three brushes, prayer book, housewife, whistle, book, hymn book, curios. Another listing gives his effects as "identity disc, letters, photos, wallet, 2 books, Mexican Dollar, 1 cent (Ceylon), 3 German Straps, Fountain Pen, Cigarette-holder, Franc Note, 50 centimes Note, devotional book, mirror, rosary, scapula, metal ring, two combs, book of views, nail clippers, badges, tie clip, Egyptian stamp.[http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=3202589]

Ted Cannon was an only child. It is not known how the 'Dead Man's Penny' came into the ownership of the donor, but it is thought that it may have been left in a house owned by the donor's mother.

Further information on Ted Cannon can be found at http://bih.ballarat.edu.au/index.php/Edwin_J._Cannon and http://www.ballarat.edu.au/about-ub/history/art-and-historical-collection/ub-honour-roll/c/edwin-joseph-ted-cannon-1895-1916

Physical description

Large bronze medallion or plaquette featuring an image of Lady Britannia surrounded by two dolphins (representing Britain’s sea power) and a lion (representing Britain) standing over a defeated eagle (symbolising Germany).

Around the outer edge of the medallion are the words ‘He died for freedom and honour’.

Next to Lady Britannia is the deceased solider’s name, with no rank provided to show equality in their sacrifice. (http://nma.gov.au/blogs/education/2010/11/14/dead-mans-penny)

The plaque was distributed throughout the British Empire, and the first plaques were distributed in Australia in 1922


"Returned home" by W. & O. Mayne.