What is the Dead Man's Penny and why is there one in Parkes?

100 YEARS AGO: Henry Parkes Museum volunteers Lorice White - also a member of the Parkes RSL Women's Auxiliary - and Rose Jones with Private Jacob Sydney Hansen's Dead Man's Penny. Photo: Christine Little
100 YEARS AGO: Henry Parkes Museum volunteers Lorice White - also a member of the Parkes RSL Women's Auxiliary - and Rose Jones with Private Jacob Sydney Hansen's Dead Man's Penny. Photo: Christine Little

“He died for freedom and honour” – these words were inscribed upon a memorial plaque, otherwise known as the Dead Man’s Penny, and given to families of those whose lives were lost while serving in the Great War, 1914-1918.

This Sunday, November 11, marks the centenary of the end of World War I, when at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the guns fell silent and an Armistice was signed.

In 1922 a Memorial Scroll was presented to the next of kin of those soldiers, sailors, and nurses who died while serving in the Australian Imperial Force or Royal Australian Navy during the First World War.

Later they were presented with a next of kin Memorial Plaque.

The round bronze Memorial Plaque is 120mm in diameter.

It shows Britannia and a lion on the front, along with the inscription “He died for freedom and honour”, and the full name of the dead soldier is engraved on the right hand side of the plaque.

According to the Australian War Memorial, no rank, unit or decorations are shown on the penny, befitting the equality of the sacrifice made by all casualties.

The shape and appearance of the plaque earned it nicknames such as the Dead Man's Penny, the Death Penny, and the Widow's Penny.

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Private Jacob Sydney Hansen, a share farmer from Peak Hill, enlisted in World War I in December 1915 and was killed in action on November 16, 1917, aged 26.

His mother – who had three sons serve in the Great War, the remaining two being Carl James Hansen and Tennos Oliver Hansen – was given a Dead Man’s Penny in honour of Jacob.

This penny, donated to the Parkes Historical Society, now sits in a specially designed cabinet at the Henry Parkes Museum, along with the Hansen brothers’ World War I service medals.

The Parkes RSL Sub Branch is hosting World War I Centenary commemorations this weekend.

A special Celebration of Armistice dinner open to the Parkes community will be held on Saturday, November 10 at the Parkes Services Club.

An official Remembrance Day celebration will be conducted at the Parkes Cenotaph in Cooke Park on Sunday from 10.30am.

The Middleton Primary School Choir will provide entertainment and a plaque depicting the 100th Anniversary of the ending of World War 1 will be unveiled.