Sunday, 5 February 2017

Made in Woolwich at the Arsenal in memory of those who died in the Great War

Now I grew up in one of those houses built for Arsenal workers during the Great War, and have read about the munition girls, the vast numbers of shells and bullets which were turned out but had no idea that from 1920 they were also responsible for making these bronze plaques issued to the next of kin who lost loved ones in the conflict.

Memorial Plaque, circa 1919
It measures 122mm in diameter and depicts an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing beside a lion.  Two dolphins swim around Britannia and a second lion appears at the bottom.

Each plaque carried the name of the dead servicemen omitting any reference to a rank and running along the plaque was the inscription “He died for Freedom and Honour” which was changed for the 600 issued to commemorate women to  “She died for Freedom and Honour.” 

In all 1,355,000 were made and they continued to be produced into the 1930s in recognition of those who died of their wounds after the war.

The first were made in Acton in London and in 1920  production was transferred to the Royal Arsenal and here comes the connection with George Davison of Manchester.

He enlisted in 1914, served in Ireland and died on the Western Front in June 1918 and in 1915 and again in 1916 and 1918 he was stationed in Woolwich.

Those made in Woolwich have a special mark on the back which George's has got which marks another link between him and Woolwich and confirms that his was made sometime during or after 1920.

All of which just leaves me to mention his will made in March 1918 in Woolwich shortly before embarking for the Western Front. It is witnessed by H M Drinkhall and V L Dade, and was hand written in a single sheet of note paper and is simple and the point. “This is the last will and testament of me George Gurnel Davison of Birch Vale Cottage, Romily, Cheshire.  

I give devise and bequeath to my dear wife Mary Ellen all my property whatsoever and wheresoever and I appoint her sole Executor of this my will.”

By the time he made the will he had served with the Royal Artillery for four years and spent time in London and Ireland but now with the German offensive in full swing he was about to go to France, and as we know would be killed just three months later.

Location; Woolwich, London

Pictures, memorial plaque, circa 1920 and will, 1918, of George Davison from the collection of David Harrop

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