MORLEY W.

WALTER MORLEY 1882-1918

 243094 Private Walter Morley, 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 15 May 1918 and is buried at the ANZAC Cemetery, Sailly-sur-la-Lys, France.[1]   He was 35 years old and is commemorated on Evenwood War Memorial.

Family Details:

 Walter was born in 1882 [2] at Lands to Thomas and Ann Morley.  There were at least 7 children:

  • William bc.1869 in Cambridgeshire
  • David bc.1870 in Cambridgeshire
  • George bc.1876 at Lands
  • Jane bc.1877 at Lands
  • Thomas bc. 1880 at Lands
  • Walter bc.1882 at Lands
  • Herbert bc.1888 at Lands

There are also 2 other children recorded, Florrie bc.1897 and Ernest bc.1900 both at Lands but Ann would have been in her late 50’s when they were born which seems unrealistic.  Where they visiting relatives?  In 1901 the Morley family were residents of Lands Bank where 64 year old Thomas was a retired coal miner, 32 year old William, 30 year old David, 25 year old David were coal miners (hewers), 13 year old Herbert was working in a coal mine and 21 year old Thomas and 19 year old Walter were quarrymen.[3]  The family originated from Cambridgeshire with the eldest 2 children, William and David being born in that county.  They appear to have moved up to Durham between 1871 and 1876.  George, the third child was born at Lands c.1876.

By 1911, 36 year old coal miner George was recorded as the “head” of the family and he lived with his sister Jane Ann aged 34, Walter aged 29 who worked as a quarryman, Herbert aged 23 who was a miner, Florrie who was 14 and Ernest aged 10. [4]

In 1911, Robert Conlon lodged with William and Phoebe Morley.  31058 Private Robert William Conlon, 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment died of wounds 13 September 1916 and he is buried at Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt.[5]

By 1919 the following are recorded: [6]

  • William and Phoebe living at Lands,
  • David and Tamer Morley living at 63 Lands,
  • George and Herbert Morley living at 4 Lands
  • Jane Ann living at 44 Lands
  • Thomas and Elizabeth Hannah Morley living at 54 Lands,

Military Details

Walter Morley enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the Yorkshire Regiment being given the regimental number 243094.[7]  The service record of Private Walter Morley has not been researched so the date he enlisted is unknown.  Since he was not awarded the 1914-15 Star then he did not enter France until after 31 December 1915.[8]

The 1/4th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment was a Territorial Force.  18 April 1915, as part of the York & Durham Brigade, Northumbrian Division it landed at Boulogne.[9] 14 May 1915, the formation became part of the 150th Brigade of the 50th Division together with:

  • 1/4th Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment
  • 1/5th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment
  • 1/5th Durham Light Infantry (left Feb. 1918)
  • 150th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed in 1916
  • 150th Trench Mortar Battery formed in 1916

The Division served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war including a most trying time on the Somme and Lys battlefields during the German Spring Offensive:

  • The Battle of St. Quentin 21 – 22 March 1918
  • The Actions at the Somme Crossings 24 – 25 March 1918
  • The Battle of Rosieres 26 – 27 March 1918

Following the conclusion of this part of the offensive, the battalion’s casualties totalled:

  • 7 officers and 24 Other Ranks killed
  • 11 officers and 147 non-commissioned officers and men wounded
  • 1 officer and 10 men wounded and missing
  • 3 officers and 168 Other Ranks missing

In all 22 officers and 349 non-commissioned officers and men were killed, wounded and missing.

2 April 1918:  the battalion moved to Bethune, remaining until the retreat ended being heavily involved in re-organisation after the heavy losses in all ranks since 23 March. During April no fewer than 22 officers and 802 Other Ranks joined the 4th Battalion, many of whom had recovered from previous wounds.

8 April: orders were received to leave Bethune to move to Lavente since the 50th Division was required for the Battle of Lys, just commencing.

10 – 15 April 1918: 4th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment [10]

 9 April:  The 50th Division was to replace Portuguese troops.  At midday, the battalion was ordered to hold the line at Sailly-sur-Lys and at 2 pm. The work of digging in started.  The 4th East Yorkshires were on the right and the 21st Middlesex was on the left.  By 4 pm. All Allied troops were withdrawn to the western bank of the Lys.  An unsuccessful attempt was made to blow up the Sailly bridge however the bridge was held and the Germans were denied passage over it but they passed the Lys to the north and formed a line to right angles to the 4th Battalion.

10 April:  at about 11 am, the troops occupying the line at right angles to the 4th battalion were driven back so that the left flank was exposed and at the same time, the battalion was being strongly attacked from the front, they were compelled to fall back.  The new line was held all night.

11 April:  morning, the Germans attacked in great force and a further withdrawal was forced upon the Green Howards.  Units became considerably disorganised.  At the cross roads to the west of Doulieu, battalions of the 150th Brigade were ordered to assemble then Vierhouck was named as the place of assembly.  Troops were falling back and many rejoined the Brigade at Arrewage.

12 April:  Many casualties were incurred as units reached La Motte-de-Bois.

13 April:  These positions were heavily shelled at daybreak.  The battalion was ordered to withdraw to Le Parc, another assembly point for the 50th Division.

15 April:  The remnants of the 4th Battalion reached this place during late afternoon.  Trenches were dug south of Bois des Vaches by working parties and stragglers came in to rejoin the ranks.

Private Walter Morley is recorded as “died” 15 May 1918.  His service record has not been researched the War Diary of the 4th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment is not available therefore little can be added to the above.  It is assumed that Private W. Morley was wounded between the 10th and 15th April during the withdrawal from Sailly-sur- la-Lys.

“The Green Howards’ Gazette” of July & August 1918 reported that 243094 Private W. Morley as “Missing.”  The January & February 1919 edition records 243094 Private W. Morley as “Killed in Action” with a note – “Previously reported Missing, now reported by German Government as Killed or Died of Wounds.”  Later research records that 6 other ranks serving with the 4/Yorkshire Regiment were killed in action 15 May 1918. [11]

27 April:  the battalion proceed by train to Courville for re-organisation.

The Green Howards history states:

“Again for the second time within something like a month, had the Battalion lost many of its best

  • 2 officers and 21 Other Ranks had been killed or had died of wounds
  • 3 officers and 216 non-commissioned officers and men had been wounded
  • 1 officer and 115 Other Ranks were missing
  • 1 man was wounded and missing.”   

Following this difficult period, the Division was withdrawn and sent to the Aisne, believed to be a much quieter area however this proved not to be the case as the Division was hit by the next phase of the offensive, the Battle of the Aisne, 27 May to 6 June 1918.

Burial

Private Walter Morley is buried at grave reference III. D. 8, ANZAC Cemetery, Sailly-sur-la-Lys.  The village of Sailly-sur-la-Lys is located on the Bethune to Armentieres road in the region of Pas de Calais, France.  It contains 320 Commonwealth burials. [12]

References

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.230 Auckland 1882 Q1

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[6] 1919 Spring List of Electors – Lands Polling District

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[8] Medal Roll

[9] http://www.1914-1918.net/

[10] “The Green Howards in the Great War” 1926 Colonel H.C. Wylly

[11] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[12] CWGC

Photographs

Green Howards  Private W. Morley is somewhere on this photo

Green Howards
Private W. Morley
is somewhere on this photo

MORLEY W.  Headstone

MORLEY W.
Headstone