Soldier from Spilsby ‘coming home’ at last

MPs Victoria Atkins and David Morris with the Dead Man's Penny belonging to Private Charles Edward Woodward from Spilsby who died in the First World War. ANL-170711-101116001
MPs Victoria Atkins and David Morris with the Dead Man's Penny belonging to Private Charles Edward Woodward from Spilsby who died in the First World War. ANL-170711-101116001

A tribute to a private from Spilsby who died in Ypres in the First World War is finally ‘coming home’ after the chance discovery of his Dead Man’s Penny memorial in a London militaria shop.

The memorial to Private Charles Edward Woodward was found by David Morris, MP for Morecombe and Lunesdale in Lancashire, and announced during a debate in the House of Commons.

A self-confessed ‘combative debater’ in the House, he described how he was moved to tears when he spoke at Westminster of his discovery. Mr Morris told the Standard: “I wanted to show what one looked like in the debate as most people in the country had no idea what they were.

“Pte Woodward’s memorial touched me as it had a hole drilled in the top as it was hanged on a wall at his parents’ home.

“The debate was moving for me. I’m known to be quite a combative debater and it shocked everyone in Westminster, including myself,”

The plaque was presented to local MP and Under Secretary of State Victoria Atkins during the debate with the wish Pte Woodward should be ‘returned home’.

After the debate, Victoria said: “It was a privilege to be part of this very moving debate in the House of Commons.

“Having been mentioned in the Commons chamber, Pte Woodward is now part of our national, as well as our local, heritage.”

The announcement has been welcomed by the Spilsby and District branch of the Royal British Legion.

Denis Chandler, of Spilsby and District RBL, said: “I viewed the House of Commons discussion re the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ of Private Woodward with great interest and commend the Honourable Members for their understanding and sympathy.

“I have my great uncle’s commemorative plaque. He was killed in 1917 at Ypres and is also commemorated on the Menin Gate and I understand the emotional attachment that is placed on these.

“Having read many of the comments on Facebook it seems that most people would like to have the plaque kept here in Spilsby.

“I have been in touch with the Franklin Hall committee and they would be proud to display the plaque there.

“Provided there is no familial reason to keep the plaque at the museum in Alford longer than the current exhibition, we would hope that the plaque could be returned to Spilsby in the keeping of the Royal British Legion Spilsby and District Branch, which will ensure that the installation in the Franklin Hall will be dealt with in an appropriate and fitting manner.”