The story concerns retiree Jean Bramham of Sunderland, U.K., who discovered a 12-cm Memorial Plaque for Canadian infantryman Percy Edwards, a Canadian soldier who died nearly a century ago. In 1953, when her in-laws moved into a new house, they found the medallion among things left by the previous homeowner. Unable to determine at the time to whom it belonged, the family set it aside; the search was revived recently by Bramham, whose son used modern communication technology to find out more about Edwards.
Edwards is memorialized in St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Washago, Ont., where he was born. There’s a picture of the memorial scroll and of Edwards himself is on the 21st Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force website.
Edwards, born in 1896 to Edward Edwards and Alice Lina Howe, had a twin named Roy. His attestation papers show he joined the 157th Battalion in Orillia, Ont., Jan. 26, 1916. He embarked for England April 23, 1916, arrived Liverpool May 5, and was in France by June 29.
Edwards was listed as missing in action in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September, 1916, a battle memorable for its carnage as well as the introduction of tanks. His body was never identified, his name thus on the Vimy National Memorial in France. Canadian soldiers from the battle are also honoured at the Courcelette Memorial in France.
It’s a mystery how the medallion honouring his death ended up in a house in Sunderland, U.K., but Bramham would now like to see it in the hands of relatives of Edwards in Canada.
More than a million of the 12-cm cast bronze medallions, featuring Britannia and the British lion along with the names of individual slain soldiers, were distributed to next-of-kin of British war dead in 1919, tokens of gratitude for the sacrifice of lives. They were accompanied by a letter from Buckingham Palace, over the King’s signature, with the words “I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War.”
Because the medallions resembled the British penny, some families in Britain were offended, making the illogical leap that their government valued the lives of the dead at no more than a penny. The medallion, designed by Edward Carter Preston, earned the sobriquet “Dead Man’s Penny.”
Anyone with information on Percy Edwards or his family may reach Bramham at email@example.com.