Reader helps Digger’s family find keepsake

Daryna ZadvirnaAlbany Advertiser
Colin Van Raalte with Salvation Army store manager Graham Henderson.
Camera IconColin Van Raalte with Salvation Army store manager Graham Henderson. Credit: Salvation Army/Albany Advertiser

A “Dead Man’s Penny” belonging to an Albany Digger has finally been returned to his family after it was found among donations to the Salvation Army.

David “Digger” Carnegie Symers was killed in service with the Australian Imperial Force days before Christmas, 1917.

“The journey began in early September, when I discovered a First World War memorial plaque among a deceased estate’s donated items,” Albany Community Store manager Graham Henderson said.

“So I began the hunt for any living relative, in order to reunite this sentimental item with the family.”

Mr Henderson said Pte Symers was “a local Albany lad” and one of nine siblings.

A memorial plaque, also known as a Dead Man’s Penny, was given to the next-of-kin of British and Empire services personnel killed in World War I if they were not married.

In December, a member of the Geraldton Family History Society, Nicole Edwards, read an Albany Advertiser article about the hunt for Pte Symers’ descendants.

After some family history research, she tracked down Colin Van Raalte. The 58-year-old Fremantle man is a descendant of Catherine (Kitty) Lyell Symers — Pte Symers’ sister — who had married Henry Van Raalte.

Last Friday, Mr Henderson handed the Dead Man’s Penny over to Mr Van Raalte, who had travelled to Albany to receive it.

Mr Van Raalte said the memorial plaque would serve as a treasured family heirloom.

“I was over the moon to find out about it,” he said.

“I’m going to get it framed along with some information about David and put it up on the wall along with my Pop’s Gallipoli medallion.

“It’s been an incredible journey to get it back into our family’s hands.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails