FIRST WORLD WAR: Dead Man's Penny reunited with family


Emily Davies

A LONG-SINCE forgotten memorial to a lost soldier has been re-united with his family nearly 100 years after his death.

John Sidney Williams from Meifod died on November 1, 1917 while fighting in Gaza in the First World War and on his death his widow, Margaret, was presented with medals and a plaque, known as The Dead Man’s Penny.

Over the years this eerily named artefact became separated from the Williams family, that is until Vernon and Pamela Brown discovered it when they were clearing out their late mother’s house 12 years ago.

With Vernon using the old technique of cleaning it up with tomato sauce, they realised the penny must be re-united with the Williams family and got in touch with the Oswestry Family and Local History Group.

Tony Harrison from the group, explained: “Despite several attempts to locate the Williams family, they were unsuccessful until they donated the items to the West Felton Branch of the Royal British Legion, for their Centenary Commemorations.

“The Oswestry Family and Local History Group was then contacted by centenary co-ordinator Colleen Hughes to see if the group could trace the family.”

The group’s research discovered that John Sidney Williams came from Pontrobert, Montgomeryshire and was living in Meifod on the 1911 Census with his wife, Margaret, and young daughter, where he was the grocer and baker. Margaret had then left the grocer’s shop when she sold the business in 1959 to Pamela Brown’s family and took the medals to Oswestry when they moved two years later

“John Sidney Williams had two daughters, both of whom never married, so there are no direct descendant from him,” continued Tony.

“The group traced a grand niece, Gillian Margaret Rudge, who is a direct descendant of John Sidney’s younger brother, Alfred Pasco Williams, who remembers Aunty Maggie and her daughters well.

Gillian has a grandson, Aaron James Rhodes, aged 10, who is currently doing a project on WWI in school.”

And it was to him that the medals were recently presented at Oswestry Library.

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