‘He deserves to be remembered’ – seeking family of fallen soldier in West Ham

Paul Jenkins with the Dead Man's Penny he found more than 30 years ago in Gidea Park

Paul Jenkins with the Dead Man's Penny he found more than 30 years ago in Gidea Park - Credit: Archant

It was found in the ground coated with paint and tar, and forgotten about for 30 years – but it’s the remembrance a fallen soldier deserves.

Up close: The 'penny', emblazoned with the name John Thomson (Picture: Paul Jenkins)

Up close: The 'penny', emblazoned with the name John Thomson (Picture: Paul Jenkins) - Credit: Archant

An large bronze coin emblazoned with the name John Thomson was found by former Havering Council labourer Paul Jenkins as he dug up a path in Gidea Park more than 30 years ago.

Now, after rediscovering the sentimental item known as a Dead Man’s Penny in his home, the 62-year-old has set his sights on reuniting the memorial – given to the family of service personnel killed in the First World War – with surviving relatives.

Mr Jenkins believes one John Thomson, who was born in Canning Town and grew up in West Ham, could be its original and intended owner.

He discovered the private had signed up in 1914 with the Worcestershire Regiment, aged 40, before he was killed in action in northern France in July 1915.


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Mr Jenkins, who lived in Harold Hill before moving to Harwich, Essex, said he discovered the four-inch-wide coin during work on a footpath near Severn Avenue, off Main Road.

“We were excavating the old footpath, where the grass verge had overgrown, and my spade hit something,” he said.

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“So I took a look, but I didn’t have a clue what it was. It was green and covered in tar. I was curious what it was so took it home.”

After cleaning it up and showing it to friends, Mr Jenkins stowed away the coin for safe-keeping and found it again two years ago as he unpacked after moving house.

His interest piqued anew, the now retired council worker set about investigating the plaque’s provenance and, with help from web-savvy friends, traced a man sharing the name of that on the medallion.

He added: “You can get £40 or £50 for the plaques on eBay, but I don’t want to sell it. I want to return it to his family.

“It’s his right to be remembered.

“He was an old man and he died for king and country. He deserves to be remembered.”

Are you a relative of John Thomson? Or do you know someone who might be? Contact the newsdesk on 020 8477 3900 or email freddy.mayhew@archant.co.uk

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