CWG: Gunner William Morgan

Gunner William Morgan

William Francis Morgan was born on 22nd January 1884 in Bengal, India. The youngest of three children, he was the son of James Morgan and his wife Mary. Both came from Ireland, marrying in 1876. They moved to London, before James was posted to India as part of his role in the Royal Horse Artillery.

Sadly James died when William was just a toddler; this prompted Mary to move the family back to England. She married again in 1887, to Edward Curling, who was a carpenter in the Royal Artillery, and the family settled on the Isle of Grain in Kent, living in the fort where Edward worked.

Surrounded by those in military service and with an army heritage himself, is it no surprise that William felt drawn to the life. In September 1898 he enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Though not yet fifteen years old, he stood 5ft 11ins (1.69m) tall and weighed in at 101lbs (46kg). He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair and four distinctive marks were noted – three scars on his head and one on his right knee.

Trumpeter Morgan certainly got to see a lot of the world during his time in the army. After a period on home soil, he was sent to Egypt on Christmas Eve 1901, staying there for just over a year. He moved on to India, returning to England five years later, by which time he had achieved the rank of Gunner.

War was imminent, and in September 1914 he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Barring a short period at home, Gunner Morgan remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, finally returning to the UK in January 1919.

William’s time in the army was one of two halves. He had several bouts of illness during his service, coming down with phimosis in 1901, scarlet fever and gonorrhoea in 1902, a fractured clavicle in 1903, pneumonia in 1904, rheumatism in 1906, ague in 1908, pleurisy in 1909, and had to return from France to England for an operation to remove a carbuncle between his shoulder blades in the summer of 1915.

Gunner Morgan was also pulled up for his conduct a few times too. He was punished for neglect of duty in August 1908, disobeyed orders in May 1909, was pulled up for being improperly dressed while in Portsmouth’s Highbury Arms Pub in November 1909 and went AWOL for ten hours on 31st July 1913.

There were positives to William’s service too, however. He was awarded the British and Victory Medals as well as the 1914 Star during the First World War. He was mentioned in dispatches and received the Military Medal in 1917 an the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal two years later.

Sadly, though, after Gunner Morgan’s positive and lengthy military service, his time out of the army was to be brief. Returning to England on 13th January 1919, he contracted influenza and pneumonia and succumbed to the lung conditions within weeks. He passed away on 27th February 1919, at the age of just 35 years of age.

William Francis Morgan was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, Kent, just minutes’ walk from where his mother now lived.

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