Memorial Death Plaques

When we were all looking at the “Death Penny” the other day in class, I was wondering who got them specifically and exactly how they could afford as a country to make all of them. I did a little research and just in case anyone else is interested here is what I found! What I found most interesting is that 600 were made for women, and no one who was executed by Court Martial received one.

High quality official replica Memorial Death Plaque Of WWI for sale

-The World War One Memorial Plaque was made from Bronze and hence it was popularly known as the “Dead Man’s Penny” among front-line troops, also becoming widely known as, the “Death Penny”, “Death Plaque” or “Widow’s Penny”. It was in October 1916 that the British Government setup a committee for the idea of a commemorative plaque that could be given to the next of kin for those men and women whose deaths were due to the First World War of 1914-18.

The first a family would know of the death of family member was the arrival of a telegram from the War Office.  This would be followed by the World War One Death Plaque and any medals the serviceman would have earned serving his country.

The original plaque was a 12 centimetre disk cast in bronze gunmetal, which included an image of Britannia and a lion, two dolphins that represented Great Britain’s sea power and the emblem of Imperial Germany’s eagle being torn to pieces by another lion. Britannia is holding an oak spray with leaves and acorns. Beneath this was a rectangular tablet where the deceased name was cast into the plaque. No rank was given as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice. On the outer edge of the disk it bears the inscription, ‘He died for freedom and honour’.  The memorial plaque was posted to the next of kin protected by a firm cardboard purpose made folder, which was then placed in a white HMSO envelope.

Production of the plaques and scrolls, which was supposed to be financed by German reparation money, began in 1919 with approximately 1,150,000 issued. They commemorated those who fell between 4th August, 1914 and 10th January, 1920 for home, Western Europe and the Dominions whilst the final date for the other theatres of war or for those died of attributable causes was 30th April 1920.

The next of kin of the 306 British and Commonwealth military personnel who were executed following a Court Martial did not receive a memorial plaque.

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Brooke’s Reading Questions for March 10th The Forbidden Zone

  1. In Borden’s Fragment titled Moonlight, she lists three companions on page 40, “Pain, Life and Death.” She then spends the next six pages describing what Pain does and how Pain infects her daily life and those around her. “Pain is the stronger. She is the greater. She is insatiable, greedy, vilely amorous, lustful, obscene.” She gives Pain feminine pronouns, calling it she/her/hers. What does making “pain” feminine add or take away from the story? In all of the literature we have read so far, what else is described with feminine pronouns and how does that connect to Borden’s idea of a feminine Pain?
  2. Borden writes for the people who did not serve in the Great War, then and now. This includes us as a class. If this was the only book we had to study, the only book that came out of The Great War, would your feelings about the war change? Would your understanding of the war change? What understandings have we gained through our other texts that are missing from The Forbidden Zone? What ideas are present here that we have not seen anywhere else?
  3. Similar to “The Beach,” Borden on multiple occasions has “zoomed out” of the story she is telling. Physically she seems to be so far away that people turn into “flies on the beach (p37),” and “ant people (p13).” These fragments she is sharing with us are all supposed to be moments she has witnessed herself, but clearly she is not a giant or watching from an airplane. Why does she repeatedly stay far away from the narrative she is sharing?

Brooke Hyatt’s review of Joyeux Noel

Joyeux Noel, made in 2005 directed by Christian Carion, is a French film capturing an accurate portrayal of various places along the front. Based on the true story about the Christmas truce of December 1914, Joyeux Noel is filmed from the perspectives of three different regiments, the Scottish, the French and the Germans. Throughout the film we hear actors speaking in German, English, French and even Latin during a religious ceremony. The actors all portray a character of their nationality, which adds another dimension to the character. This added level brings more realism to the film and to the situation, deepening the viewers empathy and emotional reaction. A key component of any war film is a question of the accuracy, and in this case the directors stayed very true to the events as well as utilizing letters and other reports supporting the film’s portrayal. 

From the war being announced and boys being excited to participate, to the constant distant sounds of bombings and the sights of flare, this movie was meticulously researched. The film depicted the Christmas trees being sent to the German front lines, as well as the opera singer sent for entertainment by the Crown German Prince Wilhelm; though there were some creative liberties taken to add a romantic element to the film, the storyline stays accurate to true events. Since this is the beginning of the war, gas masks were not needed yet and most of the front may have not yet experienced the mass casualties that became more common as the war progressed. This is one of the reasons why truces were even possible at this time. Another heavily researched aspect of the film was the set. The set designer looked into weapons, uniforms, food, structure of trenches, and even into a depiction of a Latin mass. Of the few inaccuracies I could see, some are regarding the trenches as in the movie, the trench is not packed with men and we don’t see men displaying any signs of trench foot, a common occurrence due to never being able to get out of the mud and muck of the trenches. However, we do see men having lice, and large rats taking over the trenches. We also see wounded men being left overnight in no man’s land groaning and begging for help, like we read about in All Quiet.

Adding to the dramatic element and the human effect, all three leading Lieutenant characters were all written to be similar to each other. Something I found relevant to not just the characters but also the accuracy of the time and film was that all three could speak some or were fluent in the other’s languages. The German lieutenant spoke French and English fluently, and even spoke of how his wife was French and he would often visit the village where the French Lieutenant is from. These conversations helped to humanize the characters and show how it truly was a fight among the lower classes.

We have discussed this concept in class, how it was the lower classes actually fighting in the war and the upper class sending orders from afar, not truly understanding the brutality and cruelty of war at the front. A French lieutenant says, “You’re not living the same war as me,” to his superior officer after the Truce, and this quote sums up the separation between soldiers on the front and officers hiding in offices. During the Christmas Truce, we see soldiers meeting soldiers and building connections. Soldiers who don’t want to continue fighting, and wonder why they are fighting in the first place. They have seen death and have lived through miserable conditions since the start of the war and miss their wives. In Joyeux Noel, the soldiers have a difficult time restarting the fight after their truce and each regiment gets relocated or broken up and sent to different stations on the front due to their actions. 

The biggest inconsistency I found was a female opera singer joining her husband at the front, so I surmise it was added just for the romantic element and a plot driver. A female being at the front in the trenches, and sleeping overnight, doesn’t seem historically accurate from the work we have uncovered in class. Another inaccuracy was that at one point the troops took turns shielding the opposition in their own trenches from an air-raid, I was not able to find research or letters to support this action. 

The film ends with the German troops singing a song that they learned from the Scottish Soldiers, a song called Hymne des Fraternises (also known as I’m dreaming of home). The lyric, “I’m dreaming of home, I feel so alone,” captures a serious moment in the film surrounding fraternization with the “enemy”. What started as cheering and recognition with universally known songs through the trenches, lead them to meeting on no mans land and learning about each other. In the end, all of them were dreaming of home, and they realized they actually were not so alone.

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Does All Quiet On The Western Front have the same impact today

In the 12:30 section on Tuesday we mentioned briefly how this book was banned in Germany during WW2 for being anti-German/unpatriotic, along with showing the realities of war. I have not been able to stop thinking about how this book is no longer banned, and I wonder if a new war with that type of atrocity started, would it be banned again? Do banned books work? I was wondering what your thoughts were on how we can read and see the realities of war and conditions and yet still create them? This book was published in 1929 and people who served in WW1 had to turn around and see their children and families serve in WW2. We have so much access to media today but back in the 1930’s I can’t imagine how the portrayals of the battlefields would have been accepted.