First World War “Dead Man’s Pennies” spark transatlantic interest

Jean Bramham, of Bognor Street, Towen end farm, Sunderland, who is making an appeal for a First World War memorial plaque with the family of its recipient.
Jean Bramham, of Bognor Street, Towen end farm, Sunderland, who is making an appeal for a First World War memorial plaque with the family of its recipient.
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A PENSIONER has been contacted by history buffs from across the Atlantic after discovering a mystery war memorial on Wearside.

Jean Bramham, 74, found the seven-inch decoration of honour at the house of a late relation near Chester Road, in Sunderland.

Gilbert Blythe with the medal he found on Tunstall Hills over 60 years ago.

Gilbert Blythe with the medal he found on Tunstall Hills over 60 years ago.

The “Dead Man’s Pennies” were sent to the next of kin of those who died during the First World War.

It is understood the serviceman named on the disc, Percy Edwards, was either classed missing or killed in action during the conflict.

Jean, who launched an appeal for information in the Echo, has learnt that it belonged to a member of the Canadian 21st Battalion.

She has been contacted by history groups, churches and newspapers from across his homeland.

“I’ve had emails from the church where he was born and military historians,” she said. “I also got an email from a local newspaper, the Orillia Packet and Times, who ran a piece in Canada as well as the Ramara Historical Society.”

Born at Washago, Ontario, the soldier, understood to be about 20, travelled to Liverpool in 1916 before heading to an infantry base at Le Havre, in France.

He was reported missing in action during fighting at Courcelette within months of landing.

The battalion suffered heavy casualties in two days of severe fighting. His body was either never recovered or never identified, so he has no known grave.

However, he is commemorated on the Vimy Ridge Memorial, in France and at St Paul’s Church in his home town.

Jean, a retired shopworker, came across the medal at a property in Westbourne Road.

“It would be nice to trace his relations,” said Jean. “It would mean something to Percy’s family.”

Meanwhile, more information has also emerged about a similar plaque discovered by Wearside OAP Gilbert Blythe.

The 69-year-old found it in Tunstall Bank, when he was nine.

The honour bears the name of serviceman Thomas Harper, who is understood to have served as a Lance Corporal in the 497th Field Company the Royal Engineers.

The Sunderland-born soldier, who is thought to have lived with mother Jane, sister Sarah and bothers George and Osmond in Roker Avenue, was honoured with the Victory Medal and War Medal.

The soldier, who was killed in action on April 12, 1918, is remembered at a war memorial at Ploegsteert, Belgium.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho