First World War memorial plaque discovered in Oklahoma returned to Carshalton soldier's descendants
A lost plaque commemorating the death of a WW1 soldier has been returned to his descendants after it was discovered at a yard sale in America.
On October 18, 1917, in a dug out on the western front near Dunkirk gunner Harry Wayman, 26, from Carshalton, had just written a letter to his wife, Winifred, when a shell exploded and fatally injured him.
He died the next day and a bronze memorial plaque showing the image of Britannica with the words "He died for freedom and honour" was sent to his wife.
Years later the plaque was lost, but it recently emerged the plaque had mysteriously made its way to Oklahoma where it was picked up by a woman, Diana Child, at a yard sale 15 years ago.
Last year Mrs Child sent the plaque to Andrew Arnold, a Carshalton historian, 32, after seeing Harry’s name on his website remembering the borough's war dead.
Almost a century after it was made, Mr Arnold returned the plaque to Harry's grandchildren Mike Stephenson, from Suffolk, and Penny Bastable, from Solihull, on Saturday, September 15, in Sutton.
He said: "They were particularly pleased to be reunited with the plaque - a few years ago they made the trip to the cemetery where Harry is buried, to pay their respects.
"Obviously the people who are alive now didn’t know their relatives but they are very proud of their relatives and want to keep their memories alive."
He said reuniting gunner Wayman's plaque with his family was a rewarding part of his work as a historian.
He added: "The plaque in question is a WW1 memorial plaque - these were given to the next of kin of all servicemen who died during the war.
"They were often referred to as the dead man’s penny.
"The final mystery is - no one in the family has a clue how the plaque ended up in America."
Harry Wayman was called up in 1917 and went across to France in July of that year as a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery.
He is buried in Zuydcoote military cemetery, near Dunkirk, and commemorated on the Sutton war memorial and a memorial at Sutton Grammar School where he went to school.
Amateur historian, Mr Arnold, is currently researching local men who served in the war and is set to release a book in 2014 about the men commemorated on Carshalton war memorial.
For more information visit carshaltonwarmemorial.webs.com.
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