Families receiving a memorial plaque during the First World War were often grief-stricken.
The arrival of the plaque, often referred to as a death penny, signalled the loss of a family member – a father, a brother or a spouse.
The plaque bears the name of the soldier and when they died, but very little other information to tell the story of the individual’s life. Many of those plaques, as well as Memorial Crosses awarded in the Second World War, made their way to museums. The Vancouver Island Military Museum has about 40.
Thanks to a new project at the Vancouver Island Military Museum, people can learn more about the individuals named on these artifacts, people who gave their lives in conflict.
Roger Bird, president of the Vancouver Island Military Museum Society, said Bernie Nehring, a veteran from Ontario, decided to start a memorial registry while he was visiting his daughter in Nanaimo.
When Nehring stopped by the museum and noticed there wasn’t any background information on the soldiers, he took it on himself to research their histories.
Bird said the museum is pleased with the project and build on what Nehring started.
The research can be time-consuming, said Bird. But now that the project is started, members hope to research more of the individuals listed on the plaques and crosses.
Information is gathered from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. It can take a while to sift through the information available. Members of the museum hope to add details of the individual’s life and pictures if they are available.
Bird said the registry is important because it gives people in the community the story behind the pennies and crosses, so they to get to know more about the individuals.
“To see the cross, it gives you a minute to reflect,” said Bird.
Bird said the registry is also supported by Staples, which donated supplies for the project.