George Pennell Collection
For this month’s unique artefact there is a First World War theme. As we are currently in the centenary years of the First World War it is an appropriate artefact to choose, as well as the fact that there will be a large focus on Orangemen in Service in the new interpretive centres.
George Pennell was the son of Thomas and Mary Pennell of Pernau Street in Belfast. He forged his age to enlist during WWI and was killed on 25th October 1918 at the Battle of the Lys, 17 days before the end of the war. His age at death is given as 19, however, in the 1911 census of Ireland he was listed as aged 10, which would have made him 17 when he died. He was posthumously awarded the 1914-1918 war medal and the Victory medal. Georges’ parents received the Memorial Plaque (known as the Dead Man’s Penny).
He has no known grave, and is commemorated on Panel 140 to 141 of the Tyne Cot Memorial, at West-Vlaanderen in Belgium.
The Museum of Orange Heritage has in it’s collection his death penny, dog tags, RIF Cap badge and a letter written to his mother by a 2nd Lt. detailing how, where and when her son died.
The transcript of the letter is as follow:
B E F
Dear Mrs Pennell,
I received your letter of the 4th a few days ago but have unfortunately not been able to reply sooner owing to having been down with the ‘Flue’ for the past week.
I regret that I cannot inform you what part of France your son is buried in but you will hear in due course the exact location from the Graves Registration Committee.
He was wounded about 9.30 in the morning of the 25th October 1918. I saw him fall and beckoned up the Stretcher Bearers who carried him to a farm near by – he died a few minutes later without feeling any pain.
Alf Cook was wounded shortly afterwards. I do not know which hospital he is in. The shell by which your son was killed was not from an airship but was FROM a long range high explosive (probably 6 or 7 miles).
His personal belongings including, I believe, two pipes have already been forwarded to you through the “D. A. D. R. T., A. M. F. O. Le Havre, France” – to whom you should write if you do not receive them soon.
The pay due to your son will be sent to you in due course as you are mentioned in his pay-book as next of kin.
I will give your address to any of your son’s chums who are still with the platoon.
May the thought comfort you during this time that your son died like a soldier and his loss was a great grief to his officers and comrades who again offer their sincerest sympathy.
yours very sincerely,
R. Lindsay Lees 2/Lt
Royal Irish Fusiliers