Death penny reminder of war sacrifice
THIS year marks the centenary of the Somme Offensive during the First World War and a grim family souvenir and story of that campaign has just come to light in Byron Bay.
Last month Vietnam veteran Jim Rogers was watching a television news story about the Somme campaign when the host held up a "death penny”, a memorial plaque awarded by the King George V at the end of the war to the families of soldiers who gave their lives.
At that moment Mr Rogers realised the object he had been using as a beer coaster for years was the "death penny” awarded to the Rogers family acknow- ledging the sacrifice made by his great uncle, Harold Glenn Francis Rogers.
Harold, an artillery gunner, was killed by a sniper at the battle or Mounquet Farm which took place during the Battle of Pozieres, part of the Somme Offensive between July and November, 1916.
"The penny, along with photos and medals, sat in a drawer at my father's place for around 70 years,” Mr Rogers said.
"After his death in 2011 I took the photos and penny, which was tarnished black, and used it as a drink coaster, so I polished it up with Brasso and there was his name,” he said.
"Great uncle Harry was a jackaroo on his parents' property at Nyngan and enlisted in the first Light Horse Battalion at the start of the war.
"They took their horses to Egypt but they never operated as cavalry; instead Harry was part of the Gallipoli Landing where he was wounded.
"He was evacuated to Egypt then was sent to the Western Front as part of the 45th battalion infantry where he met his death.”
Mr Rogers visited France and using historical records and maps, found the exact location of his uncle's death.
Mr Rogers' father served in the Second World War and Jim served in the Vietnam War as a member of a "Demo Company”.
"Our job was to dress up as Viet Cong and play the enemy in military exercises,” he said.
"We also did ceremonial parades travelling around Australia for military funerals.”
Mr Rogers plans to have the "Death Penny” framed and placed on display at Byron Bay Services Club.