R/2020 SJT. R. MORRIS. K.R.R.C.

 

Richard Morris was born in Lostock Hall in November 1878 and christened at St Paul’s, Farington, at the end of that month.  His father was George Morris, (b. 1853 in Hereford), who moved to Lancashire sometime in the early 1870s, where he met his wife Margaret Bamber (b. 1856 in Tarleton).  They married at St Saviour’s in Bamber Bridge in 1878 and lived at 10 Ward Street, Lostock Hall.  As well as Richard, their first child, George and Margaret had 5 other children.  George had been an agricultural labourer in Hereford, then a railway labourer in Lostock Hall, then in the 1891 Census he gave his occupation as brewer.  George died in 1907, his wife two years later.

 

Richard was already a half-timer in the mill in 1891.  He is not registered as living at the family home in 1901; the most likely explanation being that he was in the army, possibly serving in South Africa.  However, in 1906 he married Louisa Heyes (b. 1878 in Leyland), and they had two daughters, Lillian (b. 1909) and Esther (b. 1910).  In 1911, the family was living at 17 Ward Street and both parents were working as weavers in the mill.  They also had a 67-year old widow, Liza Sherburn, living with them as a domestic which allowed Louisa to continue to work.  The family photo, presumably taken in 1914, shows a third child, their son George, born in 1912.

At the outbreak of War, Richard joined the 7th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps which was raised in Winchester in August 1914 then moved to Aldershot.  Richard was with the Battalion when they landed in Boulogne on 19 May 1915 at which time he was a sergeant – which is how we know he must have had considerable previous service in the army.  By the end of May the Battalion were entrenched near Ypres and had begun to suffer their first casualties.  Throughout June, the Battalion were in and out of the trenches and on 1 July they moved to Hooge where the fighting was getting worse.  The Battalion’s War Diary is unusual: it is still only two months into their war service and each casualty is fully recorded: name, rank and serial number and nature of casualty (killed, wounded, gassed etc) but the appalling events which were about to happen would make accurate record keeping impossible.

 

On 20 July the British had detonated a large mine near Hooge and had then occupied the village (Hooge means ‘high’ in Flemish, the village was strategically important as it provided a vantage point over the surrounding area).  On 30 July the Germans mounted an attack to recapture the ground lost.  For the first time in the history of warfare, they deployed flamethrowers (called ‘liquid fire’ at the time), with devastating effect.  7KRRC had just been relieved after several days in the trenches when the Germans launched their attack so they were hastily recalled to the lines.  The German attack was ferocious: although few men were actually burned by the flamethrowers the effect on morale was devastating, but most casualties were caused by machine-gun enfilade, hand grenades and bayonettes.  The War Diarist attempts to present a full list of all casualties, but prefaces this with: "A correct casualty list is very hard to prepare without details from the Clearing Stations and owing to many being killed and wounded beyond reach."  He says during that week the Battalion lost all its officers and about 300 other ranks.  Richard Morris was among them.  His name is not listed in the War Diary – in fact his body was never found.  When the British re-occupied the crater on 9 August, they were able to recover many bodies, but many more were never found.  Richard has no grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.  He was 36 years old.

 

Rank:  Serjeant

Service No:  R/2020

Date of Death:  30/07/1915

Age:  36

Regiment/Service:  King's Royal Rifle Corps, 7th Bn.

Panel Reference:  Panel 51 and 53.

Memorial:  YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

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