A young soldier from Spilsby who was killed in the First World War has come home - exactly one year after his story became the centre of a national debate in Parliament.
The memorial plaque of Private Charles Edward Woodward was returned to Spilsby on Saturday by David Morris, MP for for Morecambe and Lunesdale in Lancashire, who discovered it in a memorabilia store in London and local MP Victoria Atkins.
Members of the community gathered at the War Memorial in the grounds of St James Church in Spilsby to give Private Woodward full Remembrance honors, with a special ceremony conducted by the Rev Canon Peter Coastes - with the Last Post and a two-minutes silence in the presence of the Spilsby branch of the Royal British Legion and local services, including the Town Council and Spilsby Fire and Rescue.
The plaque, including Mr Morris’ speech to the House when he for the ‘Dead Man’s Penny to go home, was then taken to the Franklin Hall, where the Private from Holton Holgate signed up to join the war, to go on permanent display.
Addressing the community outside St James, Mr Morris described how he had come across the Great War Memorial Plaque - also known as a ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ - in a memorabilia shop in a side street off Leicester Square.
“More than a million of these bronze plaques were made to commemorate the lives of those were killed in the First World War. They were often the only memento that families had of their loved ones,” he said.
Mr Morris described how he fought back tears as he spoke about Private Charles Edward Woodward, who died at Ypres at the age of 20 in 1915, during a parliamentary debate, before presenting the plaque to Victoria Atkins, Member of Parliament for Louth and Horncastle, with the wish that Pte Woodward be returned ’home’.
“It was like he was with me in the House,” said Mr Morris. “I had a speech written but the words just came and I knew it was time for Private Woodward to go home.”
He said it was a privilege to meet his people and he would tell the House about his visit when Private Woodward is debated again this week. “I’d like everyone who has one of these plaques to take them to church on Remembrance Sunday.
“Some of these plaques are now being melted down but it is important to preserve them for future generations.”
Victoria Atkins, Member of Parliament for Louth and Horncastle thanked Mr Morris for bring the plaque home, “It was a privilege to be part of the very moving debate in the House of Commons last year and I agree it was eerie in the House that day.
“Private Woodward was just 20 years old when he fell. He came from this area and lived in a farm worker’s cottage and had probably never been abroad before he signed up for war.
“He would never have imagined that in 100 years the town of Spilsby would be gathered to remember him and all of his friends who fell.”
Also present at the ceremony were members of Private Woodward’s family. Ian Snell, of Partney, who was Private Woodward’s step grandson, said. “This is a very special day for us. Charles was a lovely man who looked after me in the war.”
Denis Chandler, chairman of the Spilsby and District Royal British Legion, said: “We are very grateful to the MPs for bringing one of our dead home. It has always been our wish that the plaque was returned to Spilsby and it is particularly special with this being the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.”
Following the service, Canon Coates said he was surprised to learn Private Woodward came from Halton Holgate, where he is chairman of the governors at the local primary school. He said: “I’m hoping that on Remembrance Day - which this year falls on Remembrance Sunday, November 11 - will bring their ‘Pennies’ to church so they can go on the altar with the Standard and wreaths’.