Arthur Thomas Johnston was a Langley shopkeeper who died in Europe in 1916. The special bronze plaque sent to his family after he war is known as a Dead Man’s Penny. (Langley Centennial Museum)

Arthur Thomas Johnston was a Langley shopkeeper who died in Europe in 1916. The special bronze plaque sent to his family after he war is known as a Dead Man’s Penny. (Langley Centennial Museum)

REMEMBRANCE DAY: ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ a reminder of Langley man’s First World War sacrifice

The Langley Centennial Museum collection includes two bronze plaques sent to families of war dead

The Langley Centennial Museum is spotlighting its collection of artifacts related to the community’s involvement in wars.

A circular bronze plaque nicknamed a Dead Man’s Penny or Blood Penny came to the local museum by way of the West Vancouver Legion which found it among its possessions.

The plaque bears the name Arthur Thomas Johnston.

The commemorative plaque was sent to the family of the Langley store owner who fought and died in the First World War after he died.

In early 1914, with war not yet declared, Murrayville storekeeper Art Johnston had helped to organize and train a group of military-minded men known as the “Langley Volunteers.”

Many of these men went on to service in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.

• READ MORE: Dead Man’s Penny found in Fort Langley home

Johnston received his commission in May 1916, in the 102nd (Comox-Atlin) Battalion, according to the local museum. On June 27, 1916, he sailed from Halifax, where he had found out he was promoted to major. On September 2, 1916, Johnston was near Ypres, waiting with his company in the reserve trenches, ready to go forward. He came out of his dugout to take a look over the edge of his parapet at the exact moment a sniper was trained in his direction. He was killed instantly when the bullet hit his head. He was buried at Reninghelst.

Born in Ontario, Johnston wasin the South African (Second Boer) War and with the B.C. Provincial Police in Kamloops. In 1911, he started operating a store beneath the original Murrayville Hall, according to museum records. His wife, Jessie Jane Johnston, operated a hat store next door.

More than 1.3 million of these ‘pennies’ were sent to the families of dead soldiers. The medallions were memorial plaques issued after World War I to the next-of-kin of killed British Empire service personnel.

After the war, Langley streets were renamed for those who had lived here and been killed in the war. The Johnston Townline Road was named after him (now 216 Street through Milner and Murrayville).

As well, trees were planted along the renamed street in honour of the men, and Johnston’s tree still stands at the corner of 216 Street and Glover Road in Milner. Several years ago, the Langley Heritage Society placed markers at the bases of the remaining trees in commemoration.

The museum also has a ‘penny’ in the name of Langley’s Francis Hubert Read.


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