‘He deserves to be remembered’ – man seeks to reunite family with memorial to fallen soldier
PUBLISHED: 11:21 31 December 2014 | UPDATED: 13:40 31 December 2014
It was found in the ground coated with paint and tar, and forgotten about for 30 years – but it’s the remembrance a fallen soldier deserves.
An old memorial plaque emblazoned with the name John Thomson was found by former Havering Council labourer Paul Jenkins more than 30 years ago as he was digging up a path in Gidea Park.
Now, after rediscovering the sentimental item known to many as a Dead Man’s Penny, the 62-year-old has set his sights on reuniting the large bronze coin – given to the family of service personnel killed in the First World War – with surviving relatives he hopes still live in the area.
Mr Jenkins, who lived in Harold Hill before moving to Harwich, Essex, said he discovered the four-inch-wide coin during work on a footpath near Severn Avenue, off Main Road.
“We were excavating the old footpath, where the grass verge had overgrown, and my spade hit something,” he said.
“So I took a look, but I didn’t have a clue what it was. It was green and covered in tar. I was curious what it was so took it home.”
After cleaning it up and showing it to friends, Mr Jenkins stowed away the coin for safe-keeping and found it again two years ago as he unpacked after moving house.
His interest piqued anew, the now retired council worker set about investigating the plaque’s provenance and, with help from web-savvy friends, traced a man sharing the name of that on the medallion.
Mr Jenkins believes one John Thomson, who signed up in 1914 with the Worcestershire Regiment aged 40, gives his name to the plaque.
He said he has discovered the private was born in Canning Town, grew up in West Ham, and died in action in northern France in July 1915.
He added: “You can get £40 or £50 for the plaques on eBay, but I don’t want to sell it. I want to return it to his family.
“It’s his right to be remembered.
“He was an old man and he died for king and country. He deserves to be remembered.”