James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Command of a battalion

On 29 November the Battalion was back on the Hindenburg front and the following morning a major German counter-offensive began. An SOS went up from 12th Division, which was being attacked on the right, and an hour later 20th Division was ordered to move to battle stations. Morgan was in charge of the Battalion that day. The enemy had broken through and he decided that his Battalion's two principal objectives should be to save the guns of the Royal Field Artillery and to take up a defensive position, gaining touch with the troops on each flank. A platoon managed to drive the enemy back and remove some secret papers from a wireless station as well as destroying its apparatus before joining others of the Battalion to recapture the guns, enabling the artillery to remove the breechblocks from them. They were then driven back. There was heavy shelling and at least four German counter-attacks had to be repulsed. The Germans regained the ground the Division had won and had progressed as far as La Vaquerie-Masnières (map) when the Battalion ran out of bombs and were relieved. On 3 December another SOS saw them manning the old British front line; at various times other Battalions provided reinforcements. Casualties during the German counter-offensive exceeded those during the original advance.

Sadly, largely due to the lack of sufficient reserve troops, the initiative was subsequently lost as was much of the territory gained in the Battle of Cambrai but strategically much was learned about the benefits of tank warfare.

On 1 December 1917 Morgan was made a Temporary Lt. Col. Of the 10th (Service) Battalion, The Rifle Brigade. This Battalion was involved in the Cambrai operations and all their HQ officers had become casualties in the German counteroffensive, most of them killed or captured. There total losses in the action were considerable. Capt. J. E. Trevor-Jones was acting CO when Morgan took over the War Diary on 4 December. On 5 December Morgan was appointed to command the Battalion. The next day the men marched to Albert where they entrained for Beaurainville and then marched to Humbert, about 35 kilometres southeast of Boulogne. Several days were spent re-equipping and training before they moved to La Sablonnière. In the next two weeks of training the Battalion was reorganised having lost so many officers and specialists. Taking over a depleted and demoralised body of men would require all Morgan’s leadership skills. Christmas was memorable. A fire in a barn on the afternoon of 24 December threatened the safety of Battalion HQ and raged until evening. On Christmas Day the men enjoyed a Christmas Dinner and a very muddy game of football between the officers and the men, which ended in an honourable 1 - 1 draw.