‘Dead Man’s Penny’ remembers war, sacrifice for Duncan business owner

Plaque commemorates owner’s soldier grandfather

Gordon Heppell has a piece of history on the wall of his shop, The Big Scoop in downtown Duncan.

His grandfather, George Heppell, died fighting in France with British forces in 1918, during the last stages of the First World War.

When the war ended, the British government issued memorial plaques to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed during the long years of fighting, and Heppell’s family received one of the approximately 1.4 million plaques that were made and distributed at the time.

The plaque, also known as the “Dead Man’s Penny” because of the similarity in appearance to the much smaller British penny coin, was handed down to Gordon Heppell’s father and then on to him, and now it resides proudly on the wall of The Big Scoop.

Heppell said this Remembrance Day, on Nov. 11, marks the 100 anniversary of the end of the First World War and he wants people to know the history of the plaque, which has the name of his grandfather, an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion, and two dolphins symbolizing Britain’s sea power.

Across the top of the plaque are the words “He Died For Freedom and Honour”.

RELATED STORY: REMEMBRANCE DAY: COWICHAN WENT TO WAR WITH A WILL

Heppell said he remembers the plaque hanging on his father’s wall when he was a child.

“British people that have come into my shop have been amazed that I have one of those memorial plaques,” he said.

“They all said they had heard of the Dead Man’s Penny but this was the first time they actually saw one. As well as a tribute to my grandfather, it’s a great conversation piece and a significant historical artifact to have on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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