The history of the Dead Man's Penny began in 1916 with the realisation by the British Government that some form of an official token of gratitude should be given to the fallen service men and women's bereaved next of kin. The enormous casualty figures not anticipated at the start of WWI back in 1914 prompted this gesture of recognition. In 1917, the government announced a competition to design a suitable plaque with a prize of 250 pounds. There were 800 entries from all over the Empire, the Dominions, and even from the troops on the Western Front. Mr E Carter Preston of Liverpool, England, the eventual winner.
The selected design was a 12 centimetre disk cast in bronze gunmetal, which incorporated the following; an image of Britannia and a lion, two dolphins representing Britain's sea power and the emblem of Imperial Germany's eagle being torn to pieces by another lion. Britannia is holding an oak spray with leaves and acorns. Beneath this was a rectangular tablet where the deceased individual's name was cast into the plaque. No rank was given as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice. On the outer edge of the disk, the words, 'He died for freedom and honour'.
The Memorial Cross, the gift of Canada, was issued as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice on the part of widows and mothers of Canadian sailors and soldiers who laid down their lives for their country during the war; its description was as follows:
"The Cross will be a Cross patonce in silver suspended by a purple ribbon; at the end of the upright a crown; at the foot, and at the centre, within a wreath of laurel, the royal cypher "G.R.I." It will be engraved with the number, rank and name of the soldiers commemorated."