Vague ramblings

The known soldier

Posted in Life, Personal by Ian Cundell on 11 November, 2010
Sarjeant G Morris, 3-9-1916

The known soldier, (c) Rob Harris, 2010

Sarjeant George Morris, of 6th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry died during the Battle of the Somme on 3 September 1916, aged 21.

This much is known.

He was the second George Morris from the regiment to die on the Somme. Private George Morris died on 1 July, aged 29, one of the first day’s 60,000 casualties.

This much is known

He was my Nan’s beloved brother, a great uncle I never knew, the loss something for which Nan never really forgave the Germans. He is buried at Guillemont.

This much, too is known.

The sole image of George MorrisBeyond that what do we know? The details of his arrival in France on 15 July 1915, his actions and death are in the dispatches stored at the Public Records Office and in that respect, this too is known.

He is pictured on the left, in the only image we have. Look at the picture frame behind his mother.

What we do not know is this: what George Morris was like. Nan died when I was 10 and if he got talked about, I have no memory. I have no idea what music he liked, whether he read enthusiastically, whether he had a girlfriend, either at home or in France. We don’t know if he was gentle or rough in spirit, light or serious in manner.

We don’t know what he may have become. The Great War may have shattered them, but the certainties of the 19th Century were crumbling even without it, so who knows what a working class boy from the Thames Valley might have made of life?

Who knows if some of the struggles Nan had to endure could have been avoided, or the burden at least made lighter?

None of this is known or knowable.

And 37 George Morrises serving in the Army died in 1916 alone.

It’s not much to ask to spare two minutes for those – those with your name – who we lost then, and since and still today.

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

(The Green Fields of France, (c) Eric Bogle)

Harry Patch, Henry Allingham and the rest are all gone. There is no living memory to recall the names of the lost; so if not us, then who?

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