9/91948 PTE. H. MORRIS. TANK CORPS
Many thanks to David Gibson for additional information and the photographs.
Harry Morris was born on 14 August 1893 in Lostock Hall. His father was Henry Morris (b. 1849 in Leyland), a cotton weaver. Henry was married twice, his first wife was Ann Morris (maiden name not known), and they had four children, William (b. 1873), Margaret (b. 1875), Alice (b. 1878) and Elizabeth (b. 1884). Ann died, probably in 1885, and Henry remarried. His second wife, and Harry’s mother, was Isabella Potter (b. 1855 in Farington). They married in Farington in 1892 and Harry was born the following year. Isabella also had a daughter Sarah (b. 1877 out of wedlock). Isabella died in 1901 and Henry died in 1912, so both his parents were dead by the time War broke out and Harry enlisted. Although Harry was born in Lostock Hall by 1901 the family had moved to Leyland and in 1911 he was living at 2 Broadfield View, Leyland Lane. He was working as a weaver, like his father.
Harry was married in 1915, to Lily Marson (b. 1896 in York) and he enlisted in Chorley probably the following year, being first assigned service number 31940 and posted to 19th Bn Welch Regiment. However, he was later transferred to the Royal Tank Corps and was assigned a new service number, 91948, and posted to 9thBattalion.
Tanks were first used at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916. The tanks had an immediate and dramatic effect but as a new tactical device it proved difficult to integrate them into the battlefield strategy. At Arras in 1917 and in the Third Battle of Ypres later that year, again there were some successes but these were similarly limited, mainly due to the appalling muddy battlefield conditions. Cambrai in November 1917 saw the first mass use of tanks and began to reveal their full potential although again it proved impossible to muster sufficient mobile reserves to exploit the tanks’ initial success. At Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, tanks played an important part in the counterattack and it was here they encountered the first German tanks, although they were very few in number.
On 23 July 1918, 9Bn were located a few miles south of Amiens. They were attached to 5th Tank Brigade for the duration of the operation (they were normally attached to 3rd Brigade), and most unusually, the Battalion was allotted to a French Infantry Division. Their task was to seize the Saint Ribert wood by outflanking Mailly-Raineval to the south and thereby ensure its capture. They were to capture German artillery in the St Ribert area or force them to withdraw thus allowing Allied artillery to proceed to higher ground overlooking the River Avre. 9Bn received orders about the attack on 17 July and much of the next week was spent in detailed planning and cooperation with the French Infantry and training of troops about the plan of attack. In all, 35 Mark V tanks were deployed in the operation. During the operation, 12 tanks were put out of action by direct hits and a further three were out of action and in enemy hands. This was the first time that British tanks were used to support a French infantry attack and for the most part it was a success though there were still lessons to be learned. For example, the attack was preceded by a lengthy artillery bombardment, deemed necessary to bolster the French infantry who, given the relatively short training they had, did not have the confidence to follow the tanks in the way the tank commanders thought most effective. In fact, the tank commanders wanted a much shorter artillery barrage which would give an element of surprise and prevent the Germans from organising their retaliation. As it happened, the most severe casualties on the day occurred when tanks were forced to wait on a ridge for infantry to reach them and during this time the Germans were able to shell them and disable 8 tanks. The operation reinforced the developing idea that tanks had to be used in large numbers, they had to make the most of any element of surprise (i.e. no preliminary artillery bombardment) and they had to be followed up by experienced troops.
CWGC records that 2 officers and 22 other ranks from 9Bn Tank Corps were killed on 23 July 1918, including Harry Morris, who was 25 years old. According to the War Diary, 11 officers and 45 other ranks were wounded (the final figure for 9Bn was 3 officers and 23 OR killed). French infantry casualties (killed and wounded) numbered about 60 officers and 2000 other ranks. 1,858 German prisoners were taken, including 54 officers. The French captured 5 field guns, 45 trench mortars and 275 machine guns.
Harry’s widow, Lily, remarried in 1920. Her husband was Winstanley Lowe, and together they had a son in 1922 whom they named Morris.
Service No: 91948
Date of Death: 23/07/1918
Regiment/Service: Tank Corps, 9th Bn. “C” Coy.
Memorial: SOISSONS MEMORIAL
On the right is a map of the operation on 23 July 1918.
My thanks to David Gibson who supplied this map,
and the update of 9Bn casualty numbers. He also told me Harry was
in “C” Company. David also kindly sent me the photos below which
he obtained from the Tank Museum.
David tells me that the photograph below is of Harry (with wife Lily)
probably in Welch Regiment uniform.
The photo below right is interesting because he is in a Tank Corps uniform
with a Lewis Gun proficiency badge on his left sleeve, one overseas service
chevron on his right sleeve and a good conduct stripe on his left sleeve.