In memory of Fred Farmer BASSETT

In 1916 the British Government recognised the need to show some form of official gratitude to the next of kin of the fallen men and women of the Great War.

In 1917 a competition to design a suitable plaque was announced. In 1918 the winning design was selected, from some 800 entries. The designer Edward Carter Preston (7 July 1885-2 March 1965), a Liverpool medalist, received £250.

The Memorial Plaque was also known as a ‘Dead man’s penny’, ‘Next of kin plaque’ or ‘Death plaque’ and, when sent to the family, was accompanied by a Message from King George V and a Scroll, which read:
He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten.

The Willunga Branch of the National Trust has on display at the Courthouse Museum a Memorial Plaque (pictured above).

On it Britannia holds a laurel wreath in her left hand over the box where the commemorated serviceman’s name appears. In representation of Britain’s sea power there are two dolphins each facing Britannia. A lion stands in front of Britannia, also facing to the left with a menacing growl. The words “He died for freedom and honour” are written around the margin of the plaque. A very small lion, with his head facing to the right, can be seen underneath the larger lion’s feet, biting into a winged creature representing the German Imperial eagle .

1,355,000 plaques were issued using 450 tonnes of bronze. 600 plaques were issued in relation to women. These plaques bear the wording, ‘She died for freedom and honour’.

The Memorial Plaque pictured above honours Fred Farmer Bassett, who was born on 12 April 1894, left Adelaide on HMAT Berrima on 16 December 1916 as a private in 50th Infantry Battalion, was “taken off the Army transport dangerously ill” and admitted to hospital on 18 February 1917, and died of cerebro-fever on 10 March 1917.

He is also honoured by a Memorial Tree – a cypress – amongst the gum trees between Hill Street and Main Road Willunga near the Alma Hotel.

Contributed by Brian McMillan.

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