Sunday 30 October 2016

Dead Man's Penny

It’s called the Dead Man’s Penny.  It’s a small bronze plaque that was personalized with the name of any fallen soldier in the service of the British Empire during World War 1.  The pennies are made of bronze and measure about 12cm in diameter – you can see how large it is in the palm of my hand.  It’s quite heavy, probably weighing about 1lb. 
The penny was sent to their next-of-kin in a package that included a cardboard envelope with a parchment scroll and letter from King George V. 

We have two in our museum, given in recognition of service by Lionel Wellington Nutter and Percy Leonard Robertson, both local Kings Co. men who died in World War 1.  The inscribed lettering is raised and the names are in a rectangular box.

“He died for freedom and honour” is inscribed in raised lettering as well. The front of the penny also features a raised image of Britannia, a lion, and 2 dolphins. Britannia is holding a laurel wreath and a trident.  The dolphins symbolized Britain’s sea power.  The back is blank; no images or inscriptions.
If you look closely at the bottom, you can see a smaller lion underneath the bigger one and it’s attacking the German eagle.  
We have some information on Lionel, but not as much on Percy.  Lionel Wellington Nutter of Kars was born on April 30th, 1895. In March of 1915 Lionel enlisted and served with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. The 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles was formed in 1915 in Quebec. Later in 1915 the Battalion went overseas where they became a part of the 3rd Canadian Division, 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. Between 1916 and 1918 the Battalion fought in France and Flanders. On March 25th, 1916, after just one year of being part of the Mounted Rifles, Lionel Nutter was killed. 
No rank was included in the penny’s inscription because, regardless of rank, the sacrifice was the same.  Over 1.3 million of them were sent out.
For more information, check out this link:


  1. These are beautiful. I wonder who designed them? It's very sad to think they made over 1.3 million of them. A good time to remember especially coming up to Remembrance Day.

  2. WO George L. Dickson Otty Ret.12 November 2016 at 19:22

    My Uncle Lt. George Nugent Dickson Otty joined the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Forth Canadian Div. 1914 and was killed at Sanctuary Wood, hill 62,near Menin Gate on 03/06/1916.
    I have my Mothers Silver Cross and the Dead Mans Penny in my possession. Thanks for the new informati9on.