British Commonwealth Memorial Plaque

British Commonwealth Memorial plaque or "Widow's Penny", bronze disc, inscribed image of Britannia and name of soldier, William Cunningham


British Commonwealth Memorial plaque or “Widow’s Penny”, comprises a bronze disc. Obverse: Around the edge of the plaque are the words ‘HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR”, and in the centre is a depiction of Britannia standing facing right with a large lion standing in front of her, beneath the exergue is another lion, representing Britain, tearing to pieces an Eagle, the emblem of Imperial Germany. To the right of the plaque within a raised border is the embossed name of the soldier being remembered “WILLIAM/CUNNINGHAM”. Two dolphins occur on either side of Britannia, symbolising sea power. The reverse is plain and uninsribed. A twisted wire loop is attached to a perforation just right of Britannia’s head.

Private William Cunningham was the son of John and Margaret Cunningham from the Turnpike in Ennis. He was a married, pre-war regular soldier based in Cork with the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment at the outbreak of the war. He arrived at St. Nazaire, France on 12th September, 1914, as part of the 6th Division, British Expeditionary Force.

Private Cunningham went missing in action, presumed killed, in Belgium on 20th October, 1914 and has no known grave. His battalion had been involved in some very heavy fighting in and around Armentieres and an entry in the battalion war diary on the 23rd October 1914 puts his battalion’s casualties from the 18th October 1914 (five days) at 434 of which 155 were killed. The Battle of Armentieres (13th October to 2nd November) was one of several actions in the Ypres sector which became known as the First Battle of Ypres (12th October to 22nd November, 1914). Private Cunningham is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial in the Berks Cemetery Extension, Belgium.

Tragically for the Cunningham family, William’s younger brother Lance Sergeant John Cunningham, age 25, 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers was killed in action at Rue-de-Bois on 9th May 1915 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge. He also has no known grave, and is remembered at the Le Touret Memorial

Reference: secondary ref to 2nd bn, Leinster Regiment’s war diary.

Collection: Frances Morrissey

Category: Funerary Equipment

2009.0004 (5213)