David Morgan’s War

David Phillip Morgan  and  David Opie Morgan are two of sixteen David Morgan’s featured in Chapter 6 of ‘Diggers’ The first two David Morgans who were chosen at random. One was from Victoria. He drove a train in a coal mine. He joined the Mining Corps and served with the 5th Tunnelling Company. The second David Morgan  was a drover from Queensland. He was wounded, returned to Australia and committed suicide shortly after coming home. The two men had such contrasting stories that I decided include all who enlisted with the name David Morgan. Their story would be the first of thirty-five chapters about a total of 126 men and two women who enlisted in World War I. Of those who enlisted 110 served overseas. Seventeen David Morgan’s enlisted.  One was discharged before he left Australia, the remainder served overseas. Only one was killed during the war. Their varied biographies typified those who enlisted and fought in the war.   David Phillip Morgan was the oldest to enlist and David Opie Morgan,  the youngest.  Here are their stories.

David Phillip Morgan At 40 years old, David was still living with his mother in Bendigo when he enlisted in the Australian Army on 9th January 1916. He had once worked as a hairdresser but had spent most of his life working as a miner. David embarked in Sydney on 17th October 1916. After training and a stint in hospital with VD, he joined his battalion in France at the end of April 1917.

David had been posted to ‘D’ Company in the 36th Battalion. The battalion’s first battle was at Messines, Belgium on 7th July 1917. It moved to the front near Messines   on 2nd July. From the moment, they arrived at the front, they were subjected to German artillery shells. The shelling was not heavy but constant. One of these shells blew David up and partly buried him. He remained partly buried for some time. Although he came through the ordeal with only a scratch, he was wet through when rescued. The next day he developed a fever and headache and was admitted to hospital in Rouen, France. By the end of the month David was very ill with Influenza and was admitted to the University War Hospital in South Hampton, England. Later David was diagnosed with Myocarditis. He had a rapid pulse and was constantly out of breath. He was found to be shaky and feeble. His heart muscle had been damaged as a result of his exposure to the elements while buried in Flanders.

David was considered permanently incapacitated and sent back to Australia at the end of October 1917. Before he reached his destination, he had one more adventure. He sailed via South Africa and was given some leave in Cape Town. He used the opportunity have some fun. David stole a bottle of brandy and was arrested by the Cape Town Police. At his trial, he told the magistrate that he could not remember anything prior to his arrest. He was found not guilty of theft but guilty of drunkenness. He was reprimanded by the magistrate and released. Unfortunately, he discovered that his ship had already sailed.

When he returned to Australia, David was awarded a pension. In 1918, he married Henrietta Augusta Jane Wright. For a few years the couple lived at Port Melbourne. Then in 1926, David took up poultry farming at Wattle Gully near Maldon. There they raised a daughter.  He and Jane continued to farm there throughout the 1930’s. Then they moved back to Melbourne. David died at Repatriation Hospital, Caulfield Melbourne in 1944; His wife died in 1949.

David Opie Morgan was a nineteen-year-old when he enlisted in Melbourne on 9th February 1916. He had completed a six-year apprenticeship and was a carpenter by trade. David was the youngest son of Joseph Charles Morgan and his wife Elizabeth.

Joseph Charles was born in Manchester England about 1850. His father was a pewterer who made a living by crafting pewter mugs, plates and cutlery in the industrial north of England. In 1854 father, wife, Joseph Charles, age four, and his baby sister, migrated to Victoria.

Joseph Charles Morgan married Ballarat girl, Elizabeth Jane Opie, in 1880. They raised two sons and six daughters. Both sons enlisted in World War I. Joseph Oswald Morgan was born in Melbourne in 1889. He was working as a telephone installer when he enlisted shortly after war was declared in August 1914. He was posted to the 2nd Field Ambulance, Australian Medical Corp.   He held the rank of corporal, when he sailed from Melbourne on 19th October 1914. He served in Gallipoli and in France. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in May 1917, following the Battle of Bullecourt. His ambulance was working near Ypres in Belgium when he was gassed on 19th October. He was evacuated to England and hospitalised. After he returned to France in March 1918, Sergeant Morgan was mentioned in dispatches on three occasions and was awarded a Military Medal for being extremely brave and diligent when rescuing soldiers during battle. He sometimes rescued wounded soldiers in full daylight and under constant enemy fire. He sometimes worked for up to twenty-four hours without a break. He made wise decisions when commanding his stretcher bearers.

Joseph’s bravery was eclipsed by that of his younger brother David Opie Morgan. He left Australia on 27th May 1916 and arrived in France on 15th July. He was posted to the 8th Battalion and joined the unit on the 30th of September. The battalion had just fought in the Battle of Pozieres. In mid-October, it moved to Belgium and spent some time in the trenches near Ypres. In November, the battalion moved back to the Somme and entered Switch trench south of Flers. Winter was closing in and was reportedly the most sever for 36 years. David was neither sick nor wounded. In February, the battalion was still near Flers. In March, with the advent of spring, those in the 8th Battalion trained, repaired roads and constructed railways. On 15th April, the battalion moved into the front at Lagnicourt. At night, they were shelled. Sometimes gas was used. On 16th three were killed and eleven wounded. The next night ten were wounded. During the month patrols were sent to the enemy trenches to harass the Germans. Sometimes prisoners were taken and guns captured. Sometimes there were casualties. On the night of 19th April five were killed and three were wounded. On the 7th May, the battalion moved to the right of Bullecourt on the Hindenburg Line. They went into action and extended the front. The Germans counter-attacked with rifle grenades and bombs. Although some prisoners were taken the Australians were forced to retreat. Five members of the 8th Battalion were killed and sixty-three wounded. The battalion was relieved on 8th May. David Morgan was uninjured.

The remainder of May and June, July and August were spent training. On the 11th August those in the battalion had a bath at Steenwerck. David took the opportunity to go AWL. Although he returned the next day, he was fined 30 days’ pay and sentenced to 28 days Field Punishment No 2. No doubt he was serving his sentence when he was admitted to hospital on 18th August. He had scabies and was in and out of hospital with the disease for the next month. His battalion was in Steenwerck when he returned on 22nd September. At the beginning of October, the 8th Battalion fought in the Battle of Broodseind. David and his mates had to wade through marshes and around stumps that were once Romulus and Remus Woods, before they could capture a number of blockhouses and reach their objective. During the battle, the battalion suffered 394 casualties. They went back into the front-line at Westhoek near Ypres on 23rd October. They were shelled and gassed and another 212 became casualties. Then the battalion rested. David was given leave from 22nd December until the 12th January 1918.

The 8th Battalion carried out a successful raid against the Germans on at Wytschaete near Messines, Flanders on 2nd April 1918. On the 12th April, they were transferred to Hazebrouck, 10 km west of Messines. At the end of March, the Germans left the security of the Hindenburg Line and surged forward to make a last-ditch attempt to defeat the Allies in France before the Americas entered the War. The 8th Battalion played an important part in stopping them before they reached Hazebrouck.

In August, the 8th Battalion fought in the Battle of Amiens. This battle was a turning point in the First World War. David Morgan was a stretcher bearer during the battle. He saved many lives.

During the attack north of Rosieres on 9th August 1918, Private Morgan acted as a stretcher bearer with one of the line companies. Throughout the action he did magnificent work, dressing and bearing wounded under heavy fire. When all other company bearers had become casualties, he organised fresh squads and personally penetrated through a barrage of heavy artillery and direct machine gun fire into a captured CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) to salvage stretchers which he carried back to his squads to carry on with. He then took charge of a number of German prisoners who were passing through our lines and organised them into bearer squads to carry back wounded on their way to the rear. His initiative, courage and devotion to duty, was the admiration of all and the means of saving many lives. When his company commander was wounded in the attack on Lihons on 11th August 1918, Private Morgan went out and singlehanded carried him back to a place of safety, dressed his wounds and then, no other bearers being available, carried him single handed to the RAP collapsing from exhaustion on arriving there.   (Dispatch Major General Commanding 1st Australian Division, Recommendations file for Honours and Awards, AIF 1914-1918 War AWM28 1/44 Part 2)

David was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 12 July 1919.

When David and Joseph returned to Australia in 1919, they lived with their parents in Wall Street, Richmond. Neither brother returned to his pre-war trade of carpentry or telephone fitting. Their father worked as a driver and initially David worked with him. Joseph became a boot-maker. By the mid 1920’s David was also working as a boot-maker. He died on 23rd March 1934. He was only thirty-six years. His uncle wrote to the Australian Army asking that his death be acknowledged to result from his war experience.

David’s mother died in 1935, his father in 1938. All three are buried together in Prahran cemetery.

Joseph Morgan married in 1937. He moved to Dandenong and opened a tobacco shop. He continued to work as a tobacconist and live with his wife in the Fern Tree Gully area of Victoria for the remainder of his life. He died in the mid-1960’s.