ROBERT JOSEPH CROSSEN ~ ‘Death Plaque’ reunited on Armistice Day with Rollerston soldier’s descendant family.


A WW1 Memorial Plaque (also called a ‘death penny’,’ deadman’s penny’ or ‘death plaque’) sent to the mother of a WW1 soldier from Rollerston, was re-presented to his grand-nephew at the Oxford RSA on Armistice Day 2018.  The plaque had been handed into the Oxford RSA and Rhonda Graham-van Rooden, a former RNZAF & current RSA member had attempted to find a descendant to return the plaque to, but without success. 

Private Robert Crossen, 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment was killed during an attack in December 1917 on Polderhoek Chateau in Belgium.  The attack failed and Robert Crossen’s body was never recovered.

News Director Emma of the Northern Outlook whom was aware of MRNZ’s previous medal return successes in North Canterbury, suggested Rhonda contact me.  Within three hours of Rhonda sending the details, I was able to solve the case and contact her with a result. 

I was able to narrow my search by a series of phone calls to various families from around central and southern Canterbury where the Crossen families had once lived.  From this I was able to draw up a short list of possible families directly related to Robert Crossen’s family (which was large – of Thomas and Ellen Crossen’s 10 children, Robert was number nine).  One call had directed me towards Mr. Lindsay Crossen, a genealogist versed in many of the Crossen/Crossan families of Canterbury.  Lindsay was able to identify from my list relevant living Crossen families with whom he was familiar.  Only one name remained on my list of whom Lindsay was not familiar – David George Crossen of Cashmere.   David was one of Robert Crossen’s grand-nephews, David’s father being the son of one of Robert’s elder brothers, John James Crossen.   A cross check of other known living relatives narrowed the field to David Crossen being the most senior of the living relatives, most closely related to his grand uncle Robert Joseph Crossen. 

Two hours and fifty minutes of research and phone calls – case solved! 

As it transpired Lindsay was in fact related to David Crossen, through their grandfather’s however both descendant families had never met.

The North Canterbury News covered the story of the plaque’s return, here: ROBERT JOSEPH CROSSEN


Memorial Plaque of Pte. Robert J. Crossen, KIA during an attack on Polderhoek Chateau, Ypres, Belgium on 3 December 1917 – age 27.

The reunited medal tally is now 236.