174. A Morgan

MORGAN Arthur MM 1776
16B KIA 8/8/18

Arthur Morgan’s name does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. In fact, as far as can be ascertained, his name does not appear on any extant memorial in the Shire of Alberton. However, there is strong evidence of his association with the Shire.

The details retained by the Shire of Alberton on Arthur Morgan’s enlistment do not line up with those in his service file. As far as the Shire was concerned, he enlisted in November 1914. He was issued with railway warrant number 60 on 24/11/14 by the Shire Secretary. This was for train travel from Yarram (Alberton) to Melbourne. His name appeared in the lists of those locals who had enlisted, in both the South Gippsland Chronicle (5/1/16) and the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (16/7/15). His name also appeared on the list of those recruits who been medically examined by the local doctors to 31/12/14. Equally, it did not appear on the separate list of those rejected by the local doctors. Overall, as far as the Shire of Alberton was concerned, Arthur Morgan enlisted in Yarram in November 1914. However, the actual service file for Private Arthur Morgan indicates that he enlisted in Adelaide – nearly one full year later – on 18/10/15. The same record states that he had not previously been enlisted and nor had he been rejected as ‘unfit’. Presumably, for some unknown reason, Arthur Morgan did not go ahead with his enlistment when he reached Melbourne from Yarram in November 1914. At the time he was only 20 yo so the military authorities, most likely, were not interested in pursuing him. Then almost a year later he enlisted in Adelaide, without drawing any attention to his previous ‘enlistment’. He was then 21 yo and, conceivably, if there had been an earlier issue with parental permission it would no longer have been a problem.

On the face of it, the name of Morgan is so common that there would have to be the possibility that the Arthur Morgan who enlisted in Adelaide was not the Arthur Morgan who ‘enlisted’ in Yarram. But this does not appear to have been the case. The Adelaide Arthur Morgan was from Victoria. He was born in Boort (Victoria) and his next-of-kin, his father – Barnabas Morgan – lived in Port Melbourne. Moreover, when the father completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he gave ‘Bullarah [Boolarra] Gippsland’ as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. Most telling of all, in 1919, a teacher from Womerah State School – Miss E Linforth – wrote to the AIF seeking service details of former students. She was preparing a ‘school honor book’ – now unavailable – and she provided a list of names. The AIF replied that, in effect, they were only able to match 2 of the names provided. One was 2nd Lieutenant Walter Stephen Filmer – see Post 116 – and the other was Arthur Morgan, who had … enlisted Adelaide, S.A., 18.10.15.

Arthur Morgan must have grown up and attended school in the Shire. Presumably he was working as a labourer – ‘saw mill hand’ according to his father – in the Shire as a young man. He initially enlisted in the Shire but for some reason this enlistment did not proceed but then nearly one year later he enlisted in Adelaide. After the War, presumably because there were no strong, surviving family links to the Shire, his name ‘disappeared’, with the single exception of the school honor book for Womerah SS.

When he enlisted in Adelaide on 18/10/15 Arthur Morgan was 21 yo and single. He gave his religion as Church of England and his occupation was entered simply as labourer. He enlisted in 32 Battalion which had been raised in the Adelaide suburb of Mitcham. He embarked on 11/1/16. In Egypt, 2 months later, he was transferred to the reorganised 16 Battalion. His unit disembarked at Marseilles in early June 1916.

Private Morgan had several run-ins with military authority and invariably they involved drunkenness. In Egypt, in April 1916, he was punished – 14 days Field Punishment 2 and the equivalent number of days pay lost – for drunkenness and resisting the military guard. Later that same month he was ‘confined to barracks’ for 3 days for missing a parade. In France, In September 1916, he again lost 14 days pay for being drunk and creating a disturbance in camp. Finally, in March 1917, there was another 14 days of Field Punishment 2, and the equivalent number of days pay lost, for again being drunk and missing duty.

Apart from the drinking episodes, Private Morgan’s health held up well and there was only one short period of hospitalisation – influenza – in May 1916.

Private Morgan was awarded the Military Medal in July 1918 but, unfortunately, there are no details of the relevant action. The award itself was gazetted in late 1918 (London Gazette 21/10/18) and early 1919 (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 12/2/19). When the personal effects were returned to the father in February 1919 the ribbon for the Military Medal was included, so it appears the award must have been made not long before he was killed. The personal effects themselves were very limited:

1 Pocket Book, 1 Wallet, 1 “MM” Ribbon, Photos, Cards. Letters.

The father also received – April 1919 – a sealed envelope containing,

1 Letter from Commonwealth Bank of Australia (London) re – remittance £10 dated 14th March 1918.

Private Morgan was killed in action of 8/8/18. There is a brief Red Cross report and, allowing for the inevitable inconsistencies, the following account from D P Fisher (7458, 16 B) suggests what happened:

I was about three yards from him when he was going to fire a shot and his Sgt. Mjr. Philips spoke to him and he turned round and he was shot through the head and died instantly. This happened about 1 mile this side of Merricourt [Mericourt-sur-Somme] about half past 2 p.m. on 8th August 1918.

The Battle of Amiens on 8/8/18 was a major success for the Allied troops – French, British, American and Australian – involved. German casualties – nearly 30,000 – were 3 times those of the Allies. The amount of enemy ground taken and the speed with which it was captured were both stunning in comparison with earlier battles. It was the largest tank battle of the War – the Allies committed more than 550 tanks – and it also saw a major aerial battle, with the Allies enjoying significant air superiority. The Germans rated their loss that day as the infamous ‘black day’ of their War.

At the level of the individual battalion, 16 Battalion spent most of the day in a support role, although the fighting intensified as they neared the outskirts of Mericourt-sur-Somme. Overall, 16 Battalion casualties were relatively light: 3 men – Private Morgan was one of them – were killed in action; 1 died of wounds and approximately 100 were wounded.

The war diary of 16 Battalion for 8/8/18 highlights the significance, at the time, that the AIF attached to the fact that Amiens saw all the Australian divisions fighting together, under Monash. Monash was knighted in the field by King George V on 12/8/18. The tone of the diary entry is striking:

This morning the Battalion actively participated in the SOMME OFFENSIVE, extending over a frontage of approximately 20 miles, and carried out by AUSTRALIAN, CANADIAN, and BRITISH TROOPS, operating on separate and defined sectors, but in conjunction.

This operation will always stand out among the British battles fought in FRANCE for two distinct reasons: firstly, because while the attack was made with the customary assistance of artillery, aeroplanes and tanks, it introduced an entirely new method of warfare – the transportation of Infantry machine-gun crews in tanks, thus assuring the arrival of a strong preliminary attacking force at points deemed most likely to seriously trouble the advancing infantry; secondly, because of the success which attended the whole operation – a result due to the wonderful stamina and aggressive spirit displayed by the troops, and the fact through magnificent and thorough organisation the attack came as a complete surprise to the enemy. But Australians, and particularly the fighting men of Australia, will remember the battle for a grander reason. it was the first time that the whole of the AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALIONS advanced together over the same battlefield, shoulder to shoulder as it were, to win through or die for the honor of “Australia, the Empire and our Cause”.

Private Morgan is buried at Heath (Military) Cemetery, near Harbonnieres.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
South Gippsland Chronicle

National Archives file for MORGAN Arthur
Roll of Honour: Arthur Morgan
First World War Embarkation Roll: Arthur Morgan
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Arthur Morgan
Honours and Awards: Arthur Morgan

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