William Morgan 1890-, Coelbren & USA
John Walter Morgan’s son Richard Morgan, lasted less than three months in the First World War. Having joined the local “Pals” 14th Swansea Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, after training at Ryhl (north Wales), and camped with thousands of others at Winchester, prior to embarkation, he sailed with his comrades from Southampton to Le Havre on the 2nd December 1915.
At Winchester he had come across his cousins Daniel Jones and Jack Jeffreys, who were in the 19th Battalion: Daniel Jones wrote to his mother [Anne Morgan] in January 1916, “I just seen Dick Morgan and he just mentioned he had a nice parcel off you…” and on Jan 26, 1916, “Jack and Tom went out for a walk today Tuesday and they met Dick Morgan, he is all right.” On January 31st Daniel wrote, “I was talking to Dick Morgan today, he is in the pink of condition and we are just the same.”
He was killed somewhere around the Neuve Chappelle area in northeast France on the 21st February 1916. This was where the 38th (Welsh) Division was first engaged. Daniel Jones mentioned in his letter to his mother of March 4 1916 that “the boys were very sorry to hear about cousin Dick for he was quite happy every time I met him.” He was probably the unfortunate victim of a random sniper or shell attack on the trenches, as although this battalion was engaged at this time at the front line, this was still the slow war of attrition and the 14th Battalion did not participate in any major set-piece offensives until their famous attack on Mametz Wood (Somme) in July 1916 and later battles at Ypres (Passchendaele).
Two of Richard’s letters survive. He wrote to his aunt, Anne Jones (Morgan), a couple of weeks before his death: “Well I have not much news to tell you because I do not understand French or I would tell you more. We are having a few days rest at present but will soon be at it again, but I have got a new job on now (Brigade Bomber), don’t go in the trenches, in the stores, but under shell fire, so have been very lucky, no hard work.”
Although commemorated on a headstone at Nant-y-Ffin Chapel at Pen-y-Cae, he is buried at Vieille Chappelle military cemetery, close to where he fell in northeast France. Richard Morgan was described as a “very quiet and kind young man” in the local paper of 1916 and had had a difficult upbringing: his mother, Mary Ann, had died in 1892, the year of his birth and his father John re-married in 1895.
Only five years later, however, father John died aged only 30. Richard is thus now in the sole care of his step-mother, Anne and can be found aged 9 with her and his siblings Gwenllian and William next door to Coelbren House. He was also there in 1911. His last known address was the Miner’s Arms, Ystradgynlais – this is the address given for him on the Swansea battalion’s sailing manifest of December, 1915, his next of kin given as his sister Gwenllian.
Richard Morgan’s letter to his aunt (left) and sister (right). He wrote this second letter from France, sometime late in 1915, two months before his death:
In answer to your letter which I was very glad to receive Friday night, I been waiting since last Monday for a letter from you. I was very sorry to hear about Mrs Lewis, very sad….I was very glad to hear that Will is in the pink, remember me to him…we are having rotten weather here, raining almost every day since we are here. Well I must draw to a close. Hoping that you will enjoy Xmas all right; we enjoy ourselves all right, don’t you trouble about me, I am all right, in the pink. Remember me to Anne with my best love; tell her to write.
Well ta ta from your loving brother, Dick”
This extract from the UK Army Register of Soldier’s Effects gives details of Richard’s death, his siblings and the war gratuities advanced to them
From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
VIEILLE-CHAPELLE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY, LACOUTURE
The Old Military Cemetery (now removed) was closed in November 1915, as being too near the school; and the New Military Cemetery was begun in that month and used by fighting units and Field Ambulances until March 1918. The village and the cemetery fell into German hands in the following month, in the Battles of the Lys; but in September 1918, on the German retirement, some further burials took place. These original graves are in Plot I and Plot IV, Rows A and B. The remainder of the cemetery was made after the Armistice, by the concentration of British, Indian and Portuguese graves from the neighbouring battlefields and from other cemeteries; but the Portuguese graves were removed to Richebourg-L'Avoue Portuguese National Cemetery in 1925, and three German prisoners graves have also been removed. The following were among the burial grounds from which graves were taken to this cemetery:- BOUT-DE-VILLE GERMAN CEMETERY, RICHEBOURG-ST. VAAST, 19 kilometres North-East of Vieille-Chapelle, where five soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried by the enemy in April 1918 and 28 by their comrades in September and October 1918. KING's LIVERPOOLS GRAVEYARD, CUINCHY, situated among houses on the West side of the Festubert-Cambrin road, opposite Givenchy. It contained the graves of 170 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Canada, almost all of whom fell in 1915 or 1918; it was begun by the 1st King's in February 1915, and used by the 55th Division in April 1918. LOCON OLD MILITARY CEMETERY, 228 metres East of the village, used in June 1915 and containing the graves of ten soldiers from the United Kingdom. LOCON NEW MILITARY CEMETERY, begun by the 38th (Welch) Division in September 1915 and used in 1916 and 1918; it contained the graves of 30 soldiers from the United Kingdom, and it was 365 metres West of the village on the road to Merville. RICHEBOURG-ST. VAAST CHURCHYARD, where four soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in 1915. ROUGE-CROIX, RICHEBOURG-ST. VAAST, a hamlet at the crossing of the Rue-du-Bacquerot and the Estaires-La Bassee road. Here were buried 24 men of the 2nd East Lancs, who fell on the 14th March 1915, and two unknown gunners. ROYAL BERKS CEMETERY, CUINCHY, 182 metres South-West of Cuinchy Church. Here were buried, in 1915, 53 soldiers from the United Kingdom, of whom 34 belonged to the 1st Royal Berks, and one German prisoner in 1917. There are now nearly 1,000, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Almost all fell in 1914, 1915 or 1918, and most of those who fell in 1918 belonged to the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. Of these, over one-third are unidentified and special memorials are erected to five soldiers from the United Kingdom, believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of nine soldiers from the United Kingdom, buried in other cemeteries, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery covers an area of 4,111 square metres and is enclosed by a stone rubble wall. The village was later "adopted" by the Metropolitan Borough of Paddington. The Communal Cemetery contains a memorial to the 1st King Edward's Horse, who defended the village in April 1918.
The grave reference for Richard Morgan is I.C.8, which will indicate his position in Plot 1, Row C, Grave 8.
From the Labour Voice (Llais Lafur) newspaper, 25th March 1916 :
THE LATE RICHARD MORGAN
best known as "Dick Morgan, the Miners". A short while ago, news appeared in the Llais of the death of our dear friend. Everyone is sorry that Dick has lost his life, having fallen in the fields of France on February 21st 1916. As a young lad he was fine and quiet in the way he was, and a wonderful friend, kind and gentle of heart. He was so nice that everybody loved him. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. T R Morgan of Coelbren, and grandson of the well-known and late Old Richard Morgan the Taylor. His parents were buried many years ago, leaving four children to live their lives.
He lived with Thomas Thomas of The Miners Arms, Ystradgynlais and had been living there for six years, and counted as one of their own children. His last words to them were "Goodbye; I don't think I'll ever see you again". His sisters Margaret and Gwen live in Coelbren, but Willie, his only brother, went to America when he was 24.
NB: this report should state that he was the son of the late “Mr. and Mrs. J W Morgan…”
from the Llais Lafur (“Labour Voice”), 15 April 1916
Richard Morgan is commemorated at Nantyffin Cemetery