James Ramage Morris, 12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was killed in the Battle of Courtrai on 14th October 1918. This great advance of the allied armies, now including the Americans, was the last final push, driving the Germans back to the River Lys and ending the war. It also liberated Belgian towns and villages which had been under German occupation for four years. I have learnt about this from my Belgian friend, Bart Seynaeve, whose village Gulleghem was liberated on 15th October. This was where my Great Uncle, Captain Alan Lendrum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was injured and awarded a Bar to his MC ‘for conspicuous courage and excellent leadership’. In 2011 we followed the path of this advance using maps and extracts from the War Diary. We even visited the cemetery at Dadizeele where James Morris is buried alongside many Inniskilling Fusiliers. It is fertile land and all around are fields of turnips and cabbages, yet still throwing up the rusted shells and bullets that were exchanged almost one hundred years ago. Bart has a giant map he has assembled with the four advancing divisions, 50,000 strong, indicated by coloured stickers moving towards the German line. It looked terrifying on paper, what can it have been like in reality? At 0530, one hour before sunrise, on 14th October the barrage started and the attack began. It was witnessed by Lt Phillip Ledward, 15th Hampshire Regiment. ‘The signal was one shot fired from a 15-inch Naval gun many miles behind the line, and it broke an utter silence with the great crack of it speeding overhead, followed by a queer echoing roar of its passage growing less and less, till just as it had about ceased to be audible, the barrage burst out with one tremendous crash. It was like some stupendous orchestra, grand, inspiring, exhilerating, beyond imagination… The barrage was marked at every 100 yards or so by phospherous shells, which burst in the air, pouring out a golden rain like fireworks, and it was by the guidance of these that we followed’. Some how, in the midst of all that, James Ramage Morris was struck by a shell and lost his life. He was the licensee of a public house in Teddington called The Brittania, it’s still there, now called The Hogarth. On 6th April 1916 he married Eva Kathleen Buckingham in St Mary’s Church, Summerstown and they lived at 33 Swaby Road. He was wounded at Cambrai in 1917 but returned to France the following year. His name is also listed on the Teddington War Memorial.
UPDATE Michael Burrett got in touch with us to tell us that his Grandmother was an Ellen Morris and that he had found a photograph of her brother, James Ramage Morris. In 1891 James Morris Senior and his wife Elizabeth lived with three children in Battersea. He was a pastry and restaurant cook who became a house painter. By 1911 they were at 123 Penwith Road, Earlsfield with eight children, of whom 20 year old James, a grocer’s shop assistant was the second eldest. Ellen, born in 1906 was the second youngest, and Elsie, whom Mike remembers meeting when he was very little, was the youngest. The other children were Alfred, Alice, Rosie, Edith and William. James married Eva Buckingham in 1916. She was the second youngest of six children and at the age of 16 was already working in a laundry. Her late father Samuel was a ‘boot clicker’ from Colchester. The Buckinghams lived at 9 Franche Court Road, sandwiched between two Summerstown182 families, the Tickners and the Tuttys. This would be much closer to St Mary’s Church and explains why the couple married there and James is on the memorial.