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WWI Bronze Memorial Plaque Corporal Ernest W. Ruck

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WWI Bronze Memorial Plaque Corporal Ernest W. Ruck WWI Memorial Plaque Bronze %%alt5%%
This is the bronze Memorial Plaque or dead man's penny as it was nicknamed at the time due to its resemblance to the penny coin, to honour the sacrifice made by Corporal Ernest Walter Ruck of the 6th Service Battalion of the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), who died of his wounds on The Somme on 21st November 1917, at the age of 40 years. His service number was G/24733 and he earned the Victory Medal and the British War Medal, according to his medal index card, which will be supplied with the plaque and with a copy of the cemetery plan and a memorial certificate from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission detailing the fact that he is buried in the Tincourt New British Cemetery. The reference for his grave is II.E.20.

The Memorial Plaque was issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.

The plaques (which could be described as large plaquettes) about 4.75 inches (120 mm) in diameter, were cast in bronze, and came to be known as the "Dead Man’s Penny", because of the similarity in appearance to the much smaller penny coin which itself had a diameter of only 1.215 inches (30.9 mm). 1,355,000 plaques were issued, which used a total of 450 tons of bronze, and continued to be issued into the 1930s to commemorate people who died as a consequence of the war.

It was decided that the design of the plaque, was to be chosen from submissions made in a public competition. Over 800 designs were submitted and the competition was won by the sculptor and medallist Edward Carter Preston using the pseudonym Pyramus, receiving two first place prizes of £250 for his winning and also an alternative design. The name Pyramus comes from the story of Pyramus and Thisbē which is part of Ovid's Metamorphoses, a Roman tragedy narrative poem.

Carter Preston's winning design includes an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion. The designer's initials, E.CR.P., appear above the front paw. In her outstretched left hand Britannia holds an olive wreath above the rectangular tablet bearing the deceased's name cast in raised letters. Below the name tablet, to the right of the lion, is an oak spray with acorns. The name does not include the rank since there was to be no distinction between sacrifices made by different individuals. Two dolphins swim around Britannia, symbolizing Britain's sea power, and at the bottom a second lion is tearing apart the German eagle. The reverse is blank, making it a plaquette rather than a table medal. Around the picture the legend reads (in capitals) "He died for freedom and honour", or for the 1500 plaques issued to commemorate women, "She died for freedom and honour".

They were initially made at the Memorial Plaque Factory, 54/56 Church Road, Acton, W3, London from 1919. Early Acton-made plaques did not have a number stamped on them but later ones have a number stamped behind the lion's back leg.

In December 1920 manufacture was shifted to the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. Plaques manufactured here can be identified by a circle containing the initials "WA" on the back (the "A" being formed by a bar between the two upward strokes of the "W") and by a number stamped between the tail and leg (in place of the number stamped behind the lion's back leg).

The design was altered slightly during manufacture at Woolwich by Carter Preston since there was insufficient space in the original design between the lion's back paw and the H in "HE" to allow an "S" to be inserted to read "SHE" for the female plaques. The modification was to make the H slightly narrower to allow the S to be inserted. After around 1500 female plaques had been manufactured the moulds were modified to produce the male version by removing the S.

The plaques were issued in a pack with a commemorative scroll from King George V though sometimes the letter and scroll were sent first.

This plaque is one of the Woolwich Arsenal ones, as you can just see the WA entwined on the middle of the back, although we can't see a number between the tail and the back leg of the lion.

Ernest Walter Ruck was born in 1876 in Maidstone, Kent, one of seven children and in the 1881 Census, his mother was a widow and they were living at 58 King Street, Maidstone. His mother remarried and by 1891 Ernest was working as an agricultural labourer and living with his mother and stepfather and two brothers Albert J, b. 1873 and Geroge W. b. 1880. On 14th Decembe, 1895 he enlisted in the army, into the Royal West Kent Regiment for a short service termn and served in the South African Campaign of the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

By 1904, he had left the army and had married Maud Alice Monk in Maidstone. In the Census of 1911, he was working for Hollingbourne District Council as a general labourer and they were living at Kingsnorth Cottages, Ulcombe, Kent. They had two daughters, Ellen Sarah A. Ruck born 1908, who died in 1910, Rose Ella Mary Ruck, born 1905 died 1960 and Ethel Elizabeth born 1910, died 1981 (They had a son John Thomas Ruck, who was born in 1912, died 1986, who was baptised in the same church St Peter and St. Paul in Church Lane, East Sutton, Kent, where his father is remembered on the war memorial.) As Ernest's wife was living at 1 Hosier Lane, New Hythe, Larkfield when he was killed, he is also remembered on the East Malling War Memorial, and on the Aylesford War Memorial.

The 6th Service Battalion of the Queens Own, was a hostilities only battalion of the regiment. It was formed at Maidstone on 14th August, 1914 and landed at Boulogne on 1st June, 1915.

The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army based in the county of Kent in existence from 1881 to 1961. The regiment was created on 1 July 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms, originally as the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), by the amalgamation of the 50th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Foot and the 97th (The Earl of Ulster's) Regiment of Foot. In January 1921, the regiment was renamed the Royal West Kent Regiment (Queen's Own) and, in April of the same year, was again renamed, this time as the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

After distinguished service in the Second Boer War, along with both World War I and World War II, on 1 March 1961, the regiment was amalgamated with the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) to form the Queen's Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment, which was destined to be short-lived. On 31 December 1966, the Queen's Own Buffs was merged with the other regiments of the Home Counties Brigade—the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment, the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Middlesex Regiment—to form the Queen's Regiment, which was in turn amalgamated with the Royal Hampshire Regiment, on 9 September 1992, to form the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires). Throughout its existence, the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment was popularly and operationally known as the Royal West Kents.

It is a great shame that this plaque is no longer with descendents of Ernest Walter Ruck, but his medals may be. It would be a fitting tribute to a very brave man!

Plaque diameter: 4 3/4" - 12cm

Material: Bronze

Condition: Very good. The plaque hasn't been drilled as some of them have been and has relatively little wear.

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Period 1920s Antiques Material Bronze Origin English Item code as237a1964 Status Sold

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WWI Bronze Memorial Plaque Corporal Ernest W. Ruck
 
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