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The DLI Collection at Sevenhills has received a donation of James Barker Bradford’s framed ‘death penny’.

The “Dead Man’s Penny”, were memorial plaques issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.

James Barker Bradford, brother of Victoria Cross recipients Roland Boys Bradford and George Nicholson Bradford, as well as fellow Durham Light Infantryman Thomas Bradford, was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during the Battle of the Somme.

In March 1917, Second-Lieutenant Bradford led his men into an enemy trench, capturing prisoners and machine guns, as well as killing three enemy combatants. It was for this he was awarded the Military Cross.

Sadly, on 14th May 1917, James Barker was shot through the shoulder and leg, and succumbed to his wounds just four days later.

The kind donation of the framed plaque has been made by Edward Bilcliffe, son of John Bilcliffe, who was a significant contributor to DLI research, specifically the medals collection.

Edward has donated one of his father’s items because he knows how significant it is to the history of the regiment and how it tells the tragic and courageous story of the entire Bradford family.

Gillian Kirkbride Durham County Council’s museums, heritage and collections manager, said: “We are delighted to have received this donation from Edward.

“We have very few objects relating to the other Bradford brothers in the collection.”


The donation was made at Witton Park Memorial Garden, where the ‘fighting Bradfords’ are commemorated, and was attended by Edward Bilcliffe and representatives from both the DLI Collection and Durham County Council.

The death penny can viewed as part of the DLI Collection at Sevenhills

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