Morton T.W.


95403 Private Thomas William Morton, 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 24 October 1918 and is buried in Vadencourt British Cemetery, Maissemy, France.[1]  He was 21 years old and is commemorated on Woodland War Memorial and on the memorial plaque in St. John the Evangelist Church, Lynesack.

Family Details

Thomas William Morton was born 1897[2] at Woodland, the son of Thomas and Sarah Morton.  There were at least 8 children, all born at Woodland:[3]

  • Thomas William born 1897
  • Elizabeth bc.1898
  • Frederick bc.1900
  • Joseph bc.1902
  • Alice bc.1904
  • John bc.1906
  • Albert bc.1908
  • Harold bc.1910

In 1901, the family lived next to Harrison House on the Main Road, Woodland.  30 year old Thomas was a checkweighman at the colliery.[4]  By 1911, the family lived at Black Horse Terrace, Woodland and Thomas still was employed as a checkweighman.  All of the children were either at school or under school age.  14 year old oldest son, Thomas William was still at school.  Mary Ann Elliot, Thomas’ 69 year old widowed mother-in-law lived with them.[5]  By February 1915, the family lived at Prairie House, Woodland and 19 year old Thomas worked as a coal miner (putter).[6]

Service Details

Thomas William Morton enlisted at Bishop Auckland attesting 15 February 1916 aged 19 years 2 months and joined the Army Reserve.[7]   In April 1918, aged 21 years 5 months, he underwent a medical examination.  He was 5ft.8” tall, weighed 140lbs. had light brown hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion and was considered fit for service.[8]  He was mobilized 15 May 1918[9] and posted to the 3rd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry being allocated the regimental number 95403.  He was attached to the 7th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment for a short time in September 1918.[10]  30 September 1918 Private T.W. Morton was posted to the BEF and joined 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.[11]  He served a total of 2 years 252 days:[12]

  • Home: 15 February 1916 – 29 September 1918…..2 years 227 days
  • France: 30 September 1918 – 24 October 1918……………….25 days

Private T.W. Morton died of wounds 24 October 1918.

The 2/DLI was a Regular Army Battalion and formed part of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division. [13]

10 September 1914: the 6th Division landed at St. Nazaire, France and proceeded to the Western Front where it remained throughout the war.  It arrived in time to reinforce the BEF on the Aisne before the whole army was moved north to Flanders.  The 18th Brigade comprised:

  • 1st Bn., the West Yorkshires
  • 1st Bn., the East Yorkshires
  • 11th (Service) Bn., the Essex Regiment
  • 2nd Bn., the Sherwood Foresters
  • 2nd Bn., DLI
  • 14th (Service) Bn., DLI
  • 1/16th (County of London) Bn., the London Regiment
  • 18th Machine Gun Company
  • 18th Trench Mortar Battery

2/DLI Battle Honours include Aisne 1914; Armentieres 1914; Hooge 1915; Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy, Somme 1916; Hill 70, Cambrai 1917; Somme 1918. [14]  The 6th Division as part of the IX Corps, Fourth Army was heavily involved in the closing engagements of the war leading up to the Armistice:[15]

  • 29 September – 2 October: the Battle of St. Quentin Canal
  • 3 – 5 October: the Battle of Beaurevoir
  • 8 – 9 October: the Battle of Cambrai
  • 9 – 12 October: the Pursuit to the Selle
  • 17 – 25 October: the Battle of the Selle

The Battle of the Selle: a summary [16]

After the Second Battle of Cambrai, the Allies continued their advance recapturing French villages one by one as the German forces retreated to the north-east.  The retreating Germans had hastily dug-in immediately to the east of the Rover Selle.  Haig initiated a series of operations designed to get the British troops in strength across the river and clear a way for a move against the Sambre-Oise Canal, 5 miles to the east.

17 October: 5.20am after a 6 day halt for preparations and artillery bombardments the Fourth Army troops attacked in thick mist.  Infantry and tanks, preceded by a creeping barrage, moved forward on a 10 mile front south of Le Cateau.  Fighting was particularly fierce along the line of Le Cateau – Wassigny railway.  The right of the attack across the upland watershed of the Selle made most progress and by nightfall enemy defences had been broken and Le Cateau captured.

18 & 19 October: severe fighting continued by which time the Fourth Army assisted by the French First Army had advanced over 5 miles, having the enemy back towards the Sambre-Oise Canal.

20 October: the Third and First British Armies maintained the offensive to the north of the Fourth Army.  In the early morning Third Army formations secured the high ground east of the Selle.

23 October: following a 2 day pause to bring up heavy artillery, the attack was renewed with a major combined assault and the fighting continued into the next day with further gains.

The battle constituted a highly significant British victory, considerable advances were made and over 20,000 prisoners were taken.

2/DLI: in action [17]

21 October: 2/DLI moved back into the line

22 October: preparations for the attack

23 October: 2.15am German bombardment around the village of La Jonquiere where the battalion was forming up caused many casualties and disorganisation among the leading companies.

The objective – the high ground commanding the Sambre-Oise Canal

The attack – 2 Brigade on the right; 18 Brigade in the centre and 71 Brigade on the left. In 18 Brigade, 2/DLI on the right; 1/West Yorkshires on the left and 11/Essex Regiment in reserve. 2/DLI had “C” Company on the right front, “D” Company on the left, “B” Company in support and “A” Company in reserve.  As a result of the German barrage, “B” Company reinforced “C” Company.  The British artillery was answered by German gunners and the counter barrage caused heavy casualties in the leading companies, both company commanders were wounded.  The advance was slow but the attacking platoons advanced in small parties up the forward slope between the St. Maurier River and the Catillon-Baseux Road.  They were held up by machine gun and rifle fire from houses on the right.  Capt. W. Frith and a platoon serjeant knocked out 2 machine gun posts which were causing problems firing from the flank into the left rear.  These should have been dealt with by 1/WYR.  The leading companies, “B” “C” and “D” Companies consisted of small parties of men, some under the command of officers, some under NCOs and some led by privates showing a lot of initiative.  Most parties moved to their right and were being held up by another machine gun post.  “A” Company was ordered to deal with it and successfully did so, capturing Gibremont Farm.

24 October: the battalion reorganised and managed to get in touch with 2 Brigade on the right and the West Yorkshires on the left.  “C” Company was in support and “D” Company in reserve. Patrols were pushed forward to Malmaison Farm.

25 October: Patrolling continued and a post was set up at Le Gard Station.

26 October: the enemy tried to retake the position but was beaten off

28 October: 2/DLI relieved by 1/Leicestershire Regiment and marched back to billets at St. Souplet

Private T.W. Morton died of wounds 24 October 1918.[18]  It seems likely that he was wounded in action the previous day.  Private T.W. Morton was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[19]  This was to be the last action before the Armistice.  Later research records that 34 other ranks serving with 2/DLI were killed in action or died of wounds between 23 and 28 October 1918, 22 were lost 23 October.[20]

News of his Death

14 November 1918: Auckland & County Chronicle

“Mr. T. Morton of Woodland has received news that his son Pte. T.W. Morton, DLI died of wounds in France on 24th October aged 21.  Prior to joining the forces he was employed at Woodland Collieries.” 


Private Thomas William Morton is buried at grave reference II.B.6 in Vadencourt British Cemetery, Maissemy, France.  The village is about 3 miles north-west of St. Quentin and was captured by the Germans in March 1918 before being re-taken by the 1st Division in September 1918.  At the beginning of October, the IX Corps Main Dressing Station was at Vadencourt.  5th 47th and 61st Clearing Stations and Field Ambulances were located in the area.  After the Armistice the cemetery was enlarged to cater for concentrations of burials from smaller cemeteries and battlefield burials.  There are over 750 burials and commemorations in this cemetery.  [21]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.259nTeesdale 1897Q1

[3] 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Army Form B.2512

[7] Army Form B.2512

[8] Army Form B.178

[9] Statement of the Services

[10] Army Form B.120

[11] Army Form W.5080 & B.104

[12] Statement of Services: handwritten sheet





[17] “The Steel of the DLI: the 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at war 1914-1918” J. Sheen 2009 p.271-272

[18] CWGC

[19] Medal Roll card index

[20] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[21] Commonwealth War Graves Commission


MORTON T.W. Headstone


courtesy of Paul Simpson

One thought on “Morton T.W.

  1. Pingback: WOODLAND | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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