The intention to issue a plaque to the families by the UK government was being reported in NZ newspapers as early as January 1917. In the UK the Australian born Sir Reginald BRADE was chairman of a General Committee composing representatives of both Houses of Parliament and government departments most concerned, whose roll was to look at a way of commemorating the fallen in a more permanent way then the telegram from the War Office.
In much the same way as was done for the NZ WW1 service Certificate the design for this plaque was opened to the public by way of a competition. The total prize value was 500 pounds which would be shared out amongst the top designs. The competition was for a bronze plaque of around eighteen square inches which had to include the words “He died for freedom and honour” in the design. Competitors were advised that the design should be “essentially simple and easily intelligible”. It also had to have enough space within the design to include initials and surname of the fallen to be engraved. The competitors were required to be British-born subjects. Those entering the competition had to provide an unsigned wax or plaster model of the plaque and they could not submit more than two designs. The models of the plaque were required to reach the National Gallery in the UK before the 1st November 1917; this was extended to 31st December to allow overseas servicemen and artists in the dominions to participate.
More than 800 entries were received and on the 20th March 1918 the winners were announced. The winning design was by sculptor and medalist (designed the Air Forces gallantry medals, DFC, AFC, DFM etc) Edward Carter PRESTON (his initials-” ECP” appear to the right just above the lions front paw). There were 7 winners of the competition, though PRESTON had two winning designs earning him 250 pounds. One of the runners up, William MCMILLIAN, went on to design both the British War medal and Victory medal.
Supplies of the Memorial Plaque started arriving in NZ May 1920. Base Records dealt with the distribution of the plaque to the next of kin and both the plaque and scroll would only be sent to the blood next of kin of the deceased at the time the memorials were being issued this could not be issued to another family member. There was no application that the family needed to submit.
The “Evening Post” newspaper reported that the number of plaques dispatched to families up to August 1929 was 17,000. The issue of the plaque was extended to cover former NZ servicemen that had died since the end of the 1st WW but before 1 September 1928, provided their deaths were attributable to war service. In these cases the family were required to write to Base Records if they wanted to receive a plaque & scroll. In 1929 the factory producing the plaque was set to close so the final list was set to be sent to the U.K. by the Defence Department on the 26th August 1929. In early August the Defence Department were advising families that any application received after the 31st August could not be processed and would be declined. The final batch of 1186 plaques was received by Base Records on 30th November 1929, though there does seem to be evidence in Archives NZ that there were at least another 16 plaques received in 1931.
Inside the card cover the plaque is placed inside the envelope. The envelope has the Royal coat of arms embossed on it.