Private William MORTON


Regiment/Service:
Royal Warwickshire Regiment
(Formerly: Royal Engineers)
Unit:
16th (Service) Battalion (3rd Birmingham)
Service Number:
30432
(Formerly: 58952 Royal Engineers)
Date of Death:
5 October 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
26
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 27

Personal History:
William was born in the September quarter 1891 at Macclesfield Old Road, Burbage, Buxton, the son of Thomas (Carpenter) and Anne Clayton (née Shirt) Morton. He had an older sister, Lillie, and in 1901 (Census RG 13/3271) the family were still living at the same address.

Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/21238) William was still living at home and "Unemployed, formerly Labourer". In the December quarter 1914 William married Edith May Dicken, who had been working at Craigholmes School for Girls, The Park, Buxton, as a "Domestic Servant".  According to the SDGW database, William was living in Stalybridge, Cheshire at the time of his enlistment.


Military History:
According to the SDGW database, William enlisted at Buxton, but unfortunately, his Service papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid. His Medal Index Card is also unavailable, so it cannot be determined when he entered the War. However, by comparing his Service Number with others whose Records have survived, it can be fairly confident to say that he enlisted into The Royal Engineers between the 2nd and 4th January 1915. Using the same process, it seems likely he transferred to The Royal Warwickshire Regiment in July 1916, although it could also have been earlier going to France with the 32nd Division, a newly constituted volunteer formation.

William's 16th (Service) Battalion (3rd Birmingham) was formed at Birmingham in September 1914 by the Lord Mayor and a local committee. On the 26th June 1915 it came the under command of the 95th Brigade, 32nd Division. The Battalion landed at Boulogne on the 21 November 1915 and transferred to 15th Brigade, 5th Division on the 26th December 1915.

In March 1916 the 5th Division took over a section of front line between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge, in front of Arras. There were many trench raids, sniping and mining activities in the front lines. When the Franco-British offensive opened on the Somme on the 1st July 1916, the 5th Division was in GHQ Reserve, enjoying a period of rest and re-fit.

However, this time behind the lines was not destined to last, being engaged in several phases of the Battles of the Somme -
The Battles of High Wood, 14th July - 15th September; Guillemont, 3rd - 6th September; Flers-Courcelette, 15th - 22nd September; Morval, 25th - 28th September and Transloy Ridges, 1st -18th October. By the 5th October 1916 the Division had left the Somme and was holding a quieter line near Festubert. There was a constant threat from enemy artillery and sniper fire, but in comparison with the Somme it was a relatively tranquil period that lasted until March 1917.

In 1917, during the Battles of Arras, Williams Battalion were again in action in several significant engagements, including The Battle of Vimy (9th - 12th April); the Attack on La Coulotte; The Third Battle of the Scarpe (3rd - 4th May) including the Capture by the Division of Oppy Wood.

On the 7th September 1917 the Division was relieved and moved out of the line for a period, being sent next to join the great offensive in Flanders William was again in action at The Battle of Polygon Wood, 26th September - 3rd October and The Battle of Broodseinde, 4th October.

William's 16th Battalion lost one man on the 4th, but 15 more, including William over the next two days. Like William all but two have no known grave and are commemorated with him on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

In reporting his death on the 27th October 1917, 'The Buxton Advertiser' printed a letter to William's wife received from Captain H.H. Birt, of his Battalion [see Footnote below], which read:

"It is with deep regret I write re. your husband being killed in action last week. I fully realise the great blow this must be to you. But you must bear it as only an English woman can. I am a married man myself and fully understand your position and feelings.

Your husband did gallantly against the enemy and died fighting with many others. I am unable to give you further details as we have only just got back out of the line. Should any come along I shall be only too glad to send it on to you. His comrades and my fellow officers tender you their deepest sympathies in your loss."


Footnote:
· Captain Harold Harry BIRT served initially with the 2/1 Royal Gloucester Hussars Yeomanry, before transferring to the Royal Warwickshire
   Regiment. He served in France from 21 June 1916 and came from Surbiton, Surrey.

Sources:
· "The Buxton Advertiser" - 27 October 1917

Link to CWGC Record
The Tyne Cott Memorial
William's name on the Memorial
Pt William Morton
poppy