The 1914-18 Memorial Plaque
As we have now come to the close of the four-year commemoration of ‘The Great War’, it may be fi tting to look at the personal memorial given by the government to the next-of-kin of all those, British or Imperial, men or women, who died on or as a result of war service. The idea that the government would freely issue some sort of memorial to commemorate those who had died on war service was extremely novel. Although unoffi cial or private-purchase ‘memorial plaques’ of various kinds turn up for earlier wars – most commonly for the Boer War of 1899-1902 – there had never been any suggestion that the government itself would give something for war service other than to the participating serviceman or woman.
The fact that a distinctive personalised memorial, paid for by the state, was even considered is, of course, a measure of the extent to which war affected people and families on a wider scale than ever before and drew in the whole nation and empire. The matter was fi rst offi cially raised in October 1916 when a government committee was set up to examine the possibilities of producing and issuing a commemorative memorial to the fallen, with the cost to be borne by the State; it was first publicised in the The Times in November of that year in an article entitled Memento for the Fallen.