‘Death penny’ may unlock riddle of unknown soldier

MEMORIAL: Historian and city councillor Elizabeth Wade has been trying to trace the history of Frank White, one of the men on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church in North Oxford. Now she has found a ‘death penny’ bearing his name

MEMORIAL: Historian and city councillor Elizabeth Wade has been trying to trace the history of Frank White, one of the men on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church in North Oxford. Now she has found a ‘death penny’ bearing his name Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

A BRONZE coin could unlock the mystery of a man who appears on a North Oxford First World War memorial but not in official records.

“Frank White” is named on a plaque outside St Margaret’s Church, in St Margaret’s Road, but historian and city councillor Elizabeth Wade says she has been unable to find out more about him.

The 66-year-old, of Polstead Road, has researched all the names on the memorial but has been unsuccessful finding details about Mr White.

The grandmother-of-six said: “We have never been able to discover who he is. There are 47 names on the memorial but all the Frank Whites we have found in research are not likely to be him.

“I wrote a short book about the men on the memorial, 47 Men of North Oxford, and he was among them, but I never managed to identify him, or find him through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.”

But she has found a new vital clue in her search.

On Friday, said Mrs Wade , she had a stroke of luck while strolling down High Street with a friend.

“In the window of Antiques on High there was a First World War display and I noticed a ‘dead man’s penny’ with the name Frank White on it.”

A dead man’s penny was the popular name for the bronze memorial plaques, about five inches wide, issued to the relatives of soldiers, sailors, airmen and women who died in service during the First World War.

Mrs Wade said: “I went straight back to the shop the following morning and bought it for £87.

“The shop assistant did not know who had sold it to the shop owner, but I have it at home on my mantelpiece now and am hoping someone will get in touch with me, a relative perhaps, to tell me more about him.”

Mrs Wade said she had been working with Headington historian Stephanie Jenkins to help complete records of Oxford’s First World War soldiers.

In particular, as part of research into her book, Mrs Wade has compiled information on all 47 of the men listed on the St Margaret’s Church memorial.

She added: “I won’t keep the coin in my family.

“I’m hoping to put it with the rest of the archive at the Oxfordshire History Centre [in Cowley] for future generations.

“It is very rare for someone not to appear in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, but to my knowledge he really does not appear there. Like a ghost, he just appears on the memorial.

“The medal may have passed through various hands, but it would be very exciting if we could find someone linked to him.”

For more information about the 47 North Oxford men visit headington.org.uk/oxon/stmargaret

Did you previously own the coin or know of the person who did? Email Mrs Wade at cllrlwade@oxford.gov.uk

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