'Penny' a tribute to those lost in WWI

Frederick Foster and the Dead Man's Penny issued in his memory and held at the Forbes museum in Cross Street.
Frederick Foster and the Dead Man's Penny issued in his memory and held at the Forbes museum in Cross Street.

Monday marks the 101st anniversary of the day the guns fell silent, ending four years of World War I hostilities.

Forbes and District Historical Society's World War I exhibition records that 494 young men, from our shire of about 5000 at the time, had volunteered to serve in the war effort. Sixty eight were killed.

It's hard to comprehend the impact on this community a century ago, and at the time the British Government was seeking a way to honour fallen service men and women with an official token of gratitude for their next of kin.

The government announced a competition to design a suitable plaque, which became known as the Dead Man's Penny.

The winning design, by Mr E Carton Preston of Liverpool England, incorporated an image of Britannia, a lion and two dolphins representing Britain's sea power. The eagle being attacked by the lion was the symbol of Imperial Germany.

Britannia holds an oak spray with leaves and acorns and underneath this the name of the fallen service man or woman was cast. No rank was given, the intention was to show equality in their sacrifice.

The words, He died for freedom and honour, are cast around the edge of the disk.

Forbes Museum holds one of the 12cm disks, cast in gunmetal, honouring Frederick Foster.

Private Foster was the son of William Foster and the late Kate, nee Kelly. He was 28 years old when he died, on April 15, 1917, at Lagnicourt in France.

He served with the 55th Battalion, third reinforcement, and is remembered at the cemetery at Villers Bretoneux.

Langicort, a village about 3.5km in front of the Hindenburg Line in northern France, on April 15 became the scene for a major German counter-attack.

The village was overrun, as were several batteries west of there, before the attackers moved against Noreuil further up the valley where massed batteries were also located.

Four Australian battalions in support or reserve about Lagnicort - little more than 4000 men against some 16,000 Germans in this area - counter-attacked so vigorously shortly after 7am that the enemy was driven out of the village.

Australian casualties were 1010, including 300 taken prisoner, the enemy's losses amounted to 2313 of whom 362 were captured.

Many thanks to Margaret Adams and those who curated the centenary of Anzac exhibition at the Forbes Museum which was used to compile this story.

Information about Lagnicort is from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - the Encyclopedia of Australia's Battles.