James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Promotion & the Somme

This map shows most of the places mentioned in this section.

1/4 Essex Regiment then spent a fairly uneventful period in Egypt during which time Morgan was promoted to Temporary Major on 8 April 1916 and then Major. On 12 December 1916 he was attached to 11th Battalion, Rifle Brigade (11th RB), at Carnoy Camp near Guillemont, as second in command; according to the Battalion’s war diary he arrived from 15th Cheshire Regiment. Guillemont is a small hamlet, just north of the River Somme, in Picardy. It was cold and wet. 11th RB was attached to 59th Brigade, 20th (Light) Division. In the rain and snow of mid December the Battalion was in the trenches. The conditions made some trenches impassable and others collapse. One relief took 9 hours and getting rations to the front line was almost impossible. The men could have had few regrets when they entrained for Mericourt, 23 miles (37 km) north-west of Cambrai – though it took 6 ½ hours to travel 10 miles – thence to Corbie, less than 10 miles east of Amiens, where they were able to enjoy a Christmas dinner between periods of training.

At various times Morgan, as second in command, became acting CO and wrote the war diary. The first such occasion was in January 1917. The Battalion moved further east to near Bray and spent much of January in the trenches in fog, snow and frost, then north to Fricourt near Albert and then east again, back to Guillement and a return to the trenches. By the end of February the thaw was setting in and the trenches were once again in a dreadful condition. Morgan briefly went to the Divisional School of Instruction as an instructor. Meanwhile the Battalion had begun to be involved in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (14 March-5 April). There was a major confrontation with the enemy on 3 April when the Battalion was ordered to capture and hold a line in the south corner of Havrincourt Wood, about 8 miles SW of Cambrai, near Marcoing.

Up until then there had been 48 casualties in the advance. Of the 14 officers and 373 ORs in action that day 3 officers were killed and 4 injured, 36 ORs killed and 78 wounded. Morgan’s CO drew his superiors’ attention to the factors that adversely affected the attack and also pointed out, somewhat bitterly that, had the area been properly reconnoitred, it would have been appreciated that the machine gun posts could have been knocked out by the use of percussion shells, with fewer if any casualties.