The Dead Man’s Penny

Today, on Remembrance Day, we honour those who died in the line of duty during World War I.

In Clarendon’s archives are three Dead Man’s Pennys, two of which were issued to the Holgate family to commemorate the sacrifice of brothers, Harry Spencer MM (1896) (dec) and Edward ‘Ted’ Spencer Holgate MiD (1906) (dec).

Otherwise known as memorial plaques, the Dead Man’s Pennys were issued to the next of kin of all British Empire service personnel who were killed.

During the conflict, Harry was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery on the field and his name is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium. Ted was mentioned in despatches for gallantry in the field and is remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France. Neither brother has a known grave.

The third penny was donated by the Walker family whose son, John Mercer Walker (1904) (dec), was Dux of Ballarat College in his final year. After serving at Gallipoli, John transferred to the Australian Flying Corps where he was in combat in the Middle East. He was shot down over Palestine and is buried in the Ramleh War Cemetery.

In 1919, Ted Holgate was honoured by Ballarat College with a boat christened in his name and, in 1933, a boat was christened with John Walker’s name.

Of the 305 Old Collegians who enlisted in WWI, 65 lost their lives. Each Dead Man’s Penny represents the incredible sacrifice made by a significant amount of the school’s community at that time.

We will remember them.

If you wish to get in touch with Clarendon’s archives, please contact