THE family of a First World War soldier have been reunited with a unique memorial to his life, more than a century after he was tragically killed just five days before the Armistice.

Andrew Oakes, a builder from Paignton in Devon, found Ellis Thomas Evans’ ‘death penny’ in a tin last year whilst demolishing an outbuilding.

Officially called the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque, death pennies, as they came to be known, were bronze plaques approximately 11cm or 4in in diameter, with the name of someone who died serving with the British and Empire forces in the First World War.

They were issued to the deceased’s next of kin along with a scroll and were posted out to bereaved families in 1919 and 1920, with a ‘King’s message’ enclosed, which contained a facsimile signature of King George V.

With nearly a million dead in the British Army alone, the plaques are today still commonly found, but mystery surrounds just how Ellis’ ended up in a tin in Devon almost a century after his death in France.

Military records showed Ellis joined up, aged 18, in Flint. He was living in the Gwaenysgor area, possibly in Plas Gwen as this is the address his father gave, both as next of kin, and on the Record of Service card now held in the Flintshire Record Office.

When he enlisted on January 14, 1915, he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers (Reserve). He served three years in all, the last 18 months overseas with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Sadly on November 6, 1918, Ellis lost his life on the battlefield in Flanders. As his index card poignantly records, it was ‘four days before the armistice’.

Following the discovery, Mr Oakes tried to find out more about Ellis, leading him to the Flintshire War Memorials website - an online memorial for those who died in the First World War and are remembered on the war memorials across Flintshire.

After contacting the Leader, who ran a story on the mysterious find, 66-year-old Ray Weatherson, of Old Colwyn, explained Ellis was his great uncle and that

by a remarkable coincidence he too had served in the Royal Welch.

“I am just absolutely amazed that Ellis’ ‘death penny’ has be found, especially as last year was 100 years since his death,” said Mr Weatherson.

“Ellis was my great uncle, as my grandmother was his sister Elizabeth Jane.

“Elizabeth married Hugh Jones and lived in Rhyl. They had two children, Thomas who died as a child and my mother, Christina, who had seven children, of which I am the eldest.”

This week, Christina, now 87 and a resident in The Old Deanery care home in St Asaph, was presented with her uncle’s ‘death penny’ by Viv and Eifon Williams, who began the Flintshire War Memorials project, alongside Claire Harrington, Flintshire County Council’s principle archivist.

“I served 15 years in the Royal Welch Fusilliers and this is very emotional for me,” said Mr Wheatherson. “My gran used to talk about her brother but I was young, so I didn’t really take much notice.

“I couldn’t believe it when I first read the paper. It was my wife who spotted it first and neither of us could believe that they had found it in Devon. We have no idea how it ended up there.

“Before he went to war he bought my grandmother a sewing machine and she always talked about it.

“I know a man who was in the Royal Welch who is now a joiner who is going to make a plaque for my mum and I.”

Today Ellis is commemorated on both the Gronant and Gwaenysgor war memorials and Mrs Williams said they would continue

“We have reunited death pennies with two families in the past,”she added. “In 2014, after some publicity on the website and the local newspaper, a relative of Connah’s Quay soldier Herbert Foulkes was found and we were able to hand over a plaque back into the safekeeping of his family.

“In 2012, George Ewart Bevan’s memorial plaque was rescued from a skip following a house clearance and we were also able to reunite it with his family in Buckley, so it is lovely to be able to do the same for Ellis.”