Saturday, July 26, 2014

Private Frank Morris

Frank Morris
This soldier was difficult to find, the best ‘fit’ was Roman Catholic and so I assumed that he wouldn’t have been on the St James Memorial. However, research has revealed that his mother was not Catholic and furthermore when she had the Eligibility Forms signed she went to the vicar of St James Church. They lived very close to St James Church at the time Frank was alive and I believe all the evidence supports him being the Frank Morris named on the memorial (There is also a Joseph Morris on the memorial, Frank had a brother Joseph who served pre-war with the KLR, I am looking for evidence of Joseph being killed in the war).

Family Life:
Frank Morris was born on 26th October 1885 and christened in St Patrick’s (RC) Church in Liverpool on the 8th November that year. Catholic baptisms are recorded with latin names so he was baptised as Franciscus Morris, his parents were John Morris and Esther (Griffiths). There is a note written in the margin “mother protestant, 38 Fletcher Street”

In the 1891 census the family of 4 occupied 2 rooms of  51 Fletcher Street, the other 3 rooms were the home of a family named Griffiths.  Fletcher Street was off Windsor Street, Toxteth, very close to St James’ Church.  In this census Frank was enumerated as Francis (the only time this name is recorded) he was 5 years old. The rest of the household consisted of his father John Morris, aged 35, born in Liverpool and occupation dock labourer; his mother Esther aged 34 and also born in Liverpool; and his younger brother Joseph aged 1.

At the time of the 1901 census the family had grown to 5 people and now had a house with 4 rooms – at 8house 6 court, Hampton Street. These ‘court dwellings’ were notoriously unsanitary. The father, John, was still employed as a dock labourer. Frank (aged 15) was employed as a ‘steam lift operator’ , Joseph was there aged 11 and there was an addition of a younger sister Mary aged 3.

1911 census records show that Esther had been widowed. The family were living at 58 Stanhope Cottages, Upper Stanhope Street and Frank was the head of the household. Aged 25 he was employed as a ‘general labourer’. Joseph was working as a dock labourer. Their mother Esther (aged 54) and sister Mary (13) also lived there but were not in employment.  Despite being widowed, Esther completed the columns for children born/alive/died showing that of 8 children only 3 were still alive.

Military Service
Frank’s service papers have survived for two enlistments in wartime. He first enlisted in 1914 and was posted to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers with the regimental numer 15133. His attestation paper shows that he enlisted aged 28 years on 7th October 1914, which means that he was a volunteer. His address was 36 Stanhope Cottages, Upper Stanhope Street, his next-of-kin was his mother Esther of the same address and his occupation was labourer.

The medical report for Frank Morris shows that he was 28 years old, 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 126 lbs, his physical development was ‘fair’. His complexion was ‘fresh’ his eyes hazel and his hair dark brown. His religion was R.C. , he had no distinguishing marks and was passed fit for the Army.

After only 45 days Frank Morris was discharged on 20th November 1914 as unlikely to make an efficient soldier, medically unfit. His records show that he was found medically unfit but don’t say why.  According to reports he then went back to working on the docks.

On 27th July 1915 Frank Morris re-enlisted (again as a volunteer) and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment with the regimental number 19939. A note at the top of the paper says ‘enlisted for Home Service, duration of war only’ so at some point he must have signed the general service agreement to be sent overseas. His attestation papers show that he was living at 61 Wesley Street (his next-of-kin, Esther, was given at the same address), was 30 years 270 days old and a labourer. He declared his previous service with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The mystery of his reason for discharge may be explained by the form he signed at attestation, consenting to dental treatment. Deficient teeth were a cause for discharge as soldiers had to be able to eat field rations which often included hard biscuits.

He was unmarried and had no children. The medical report shows he was 5 feet 3 ½ inches tall and weighed 123 lbs, his physical development was ‘fair’. Frank made an allotment from his pay to his sister, her address was given as 22 Avison St, Upper Stanhope St.

He joined his regiment at Warrington on 29th July 1915. After training (during which he passed as a second class shot) he embarked at Southampton on 28th April 1916 and disembarked at Rouen the following day where he joined the 3 Infantry Base Depot. He proceeded to the front on 13th May 1916 and joined his battalion (2nd ,South Lancashire Regiment) the following day.

On 13th July 1916 Private Frank Morris was injured with GSW (Gun Shot Wounds) and was admitted to the 113 Field Ambulance. He was evacuated to 36 Casualty Clearing Station and died of wounds there. He was buried in Cemetiere du Bois, Hareng, Heilly, 2 ½ miles nne of Corbie. His body was later exhumed and reinterred at Heilly Station Cemetery, his family were notified of this fact and assured that “the work of reburial has been carried out carefully and reverently, special arrangements having been made for the appropriate religious services to be held.”

The records show that the M.O.D. had some trouble sending the relevant forms to Esther and Mary as they had moved several times. Forms were originally sent to Wesley St, then Avison St before finally reaching them at 117 Towson St, Everton, Liverpool.  Esther completed the form showing that Frank’s only family were his mother and sister, suggesting that his younger brother Joseph had also died.

These forms had to be certified by a clergyman or magistrate as they formed part of an application for a pension. Esther had her form signed by Fred W. Lloyd of 88c Huskisson St, Clerk in Holy Orders for St James Church, Toxteth, Liverpool on 15th October 1919. 

Newspaper reports of Frank’s death show that his family were informed that he died on his way to hospital – technically true as the Field Ambulance and Casualty Clearing Station were stops along the route of evacuation to a military hospital. This cutting is from the Liverpool Echo 1st Sept 1916. 

Click here to see the CWGC entry for Frank Morris.

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