17 May 2020

John Charleston - NZEF

Following WWI, the next of kin of British and Empire soldiers who died during WWI received a Memorial Plaque. The plaque is often called the Dead Man's Penny. It is made of bronze and over the years many have been sold for their scrap metal value.
The plaque only has the name of the soldier who died. Their rank and any decorations are not included as the concept was that in death all are equal despite their rank and what they might have done to have died.
When I was first contacted about the Memorial Plaque sent to the family of John Charleston, I thought that with no middle initial it was going to be hard to determine which soldier to research. However, a search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission showed that there were two candidates. One for WWI and one from WWII. That discovery was a relief.
The soldier I was researching was 33301 John Charleston who was a rifleman in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. John died of disease on 15 March 1918. He is buried at Codford St Mary New Churchyard in the UK.
John was married to Mary Agnes (Dolly) Skyes. Dolly was born in NSW and moved to NZ where she married John. After John died, Dolly returned to Australia with some of their children. Their children where Clarence (remained in NZ), Annie, Arthur and Kenneth. Dolly later remarried Archibald Flemming. Dolly looks to be about six in this photo.
Unraveling the family tree of John and Dolly's children proved complicated. I even resorted to contacting the Funeral Directors who arranged some of the family funerals but this proved unsuccessful.
It was through Ancestry that I have found a relative. This is Dianne and has a great interest in the history of this whole family. I'll send her the Memorial Plaque in the near future.    
How the Memorial Plaque came to me is also an interesting story. In March I received a call Amanda R. Amanda told me that her for many years her father would buy items at flea markets and auctions. The plan was to save military memorabilia and use it is displays. Amanda and her father had John's plaque for a many years but she thought that it was best back with the family.
What adds to this return is that the plaque is still in it's original envelope and packaging.
The returned medal tally is now 2472.  

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