Appeal launched to find family of WWI soldier

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Left: The soldier’s penny found by Ruth. Pic © Twitter/Ruth Davies
Right: The service record of Edward McKenzie Crombie. Pic © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

An appeal has been launched to find the family of a World War I soldier, believed to be from Merseyside, to return a memento of his service.

Ruth Davies found a Bronze Death Plaque when helping her grandmother move home. The ‘death penny’, as it’s commonly known, was sent to the next of kin of soldiers who lost their lives during the Great war.

Inscribed into the penny’s design is the phrase “he died for freedom and honour” and the soldier’s name, Edward McKenzie Crombie.

Ruth’s 93-year-old grandmother, who lives in Bolton, can’t recall exactly how she came to own the coin, but believes it may have been bought by a relative as a collectors’ item.

Ruth told JMU Journalism: “We were going through some of the things from the house as a family, and we came across the penny.

“We talked about what a shame it was that such an important memento had ended up being sold and leaving the family, and I decided to do a tweet just in case – I’ve seen things like this go viral before and end up finding the owner.”

With some research, Ruth and her family found that the solider was a Private in the North Staffordshire Regiment, and died quite near to the end of the war in 1918.

Over a million plaques were produced for families of WWI soldiers. It was quite common for bereaved households to prominently display the plaque of their deceased loved one, often with their medals, as a small domestic shrine. The keepsake was accompanied by a tribute from the King.

The plaque’s design came from a national competition by The Times, which was won by Edward Carter Preston from Liverpool. His initials are inscribed above the lion’s front paw.

Ruth added: “It would be really rewarding to get the penny back where it belongs. These pennies were the only thing you got when a loved one died in the Great War, so it would probably have been very precious to the family member who received it.

“We don’t know whether Edward McKenzie Crombie had any children when he died, so although he might not have any direct descendants, there must be someone out there who is connected to him.”

YouTube: Herts at War 1914-1918

About Amy Shirtcliffe, JMU Journalism