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Those Who Came After The Original 500

Private Stephen Crocker Morris
who died on July 29, 1916

Donated by Robert Mullan

Service Number: 33416
Age: 21
Born: March 9 1883,Trinity,Newfoundland
Force: Army
Regiment: Canadian Army Medical Corps
Unit: 3rd Field Amb
Citation: N/A

Additional Information:Brother of Fredk. Morris, of Trinity, Newfoundland.

Honours and Awards: British War Medal, the 1914 Star and the Victory Medal

I have checked the official history of the Canadian Corps in the First World War, G.W.L. Nichoslon's The Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, (Ottawa, 1964), to see if it says anything about what was happening on 29 July 1916.
It indicates (p. 154) that the Corps was still serving in the Ypres Salient in Flanders at this time and it seems that nothing major was going on. But deaths could occur in the trenches even on the most quiet days.

Nicholson notes that: "Advanced patrolling entered its third stage on the 29th when 20 members of the 19th Battalion raided enemy trenches opposite St. Eloi in broad daylight to secure identifications of mine shafts or gas cylinder boxes. They killed an estimated 50 Germans, identified as Wurtembergers, and found the suspected gas cylinder boxes; Canadian casualties were only minor."

Unfortunately, there is no published history of the 3rd Canadian Field Ambulance. However, the National Archives of Canada would have its unpublished War Diary, which was a daily account of its activities kept in the field by one of its officers, and this may contain a record of Morris's death."

Introduction:

At the outbreak of World War One between Germany and England, Canada was completely unprepared with approximately 3000 permanent troops and a few outdated machine-guns and artillery pieces. Despite Canada's lack of preparation the government promptly offered the services of Canadian troops. The offer was soon accepted and mobilization of a division of approximately 20,000 men was soon made available.

Canadian losses during the First World War (1914-1918) were staggering. 60,000 soldiers died out of a total enrollment of 625,000. On the western front, one Canadian in seven who served was killed. Of those, 16,000 have no known grave. The story of Private Stephen Crocker Morris is not any different from other tragedies that took place over those dark war years.

Profile of Stephen Crocker Morris:

Stephen Crocker Morris was born in March 9, 1883, in the growing fishing community of Trinity Harbour, Newfoundland. By the age of fifteen, he had graduated his junior grade exam with honors in Arithmetic. In appearance, Stephen stood about five foot seven, with blue eyes and fair hair. After school, he entered into the work force as a commercial traveller, or what we would call today a traveling salesman. The traveling salesman was an honorable trade, and it was a required necessity in the many outports and isolated communities around Newfoundland. Unfortunately the life of a travelling salesman was not conducive to family life, and consequently he never married.

When The Great War broke out in Aug 1914, Stephen was among the first to enlist. At the age of 31, he was an unlikely candidate for the service considering the numerous scars on his knees and boils on his arms and neck. Despite these shortcomings, Pte Morris was soon on his way to Val Cartier (outside of Quebec) for training with the 17th Canadian Army Medical Corp, and by 19 October 1914 had arrived in Plymouth, England. A total of 31,200 men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force arrived in Britain under the command of Lieutenant-General E.A.H. Alderson. This was Canada's first overseas division which brought together infantry, supporting arms and specialist organizations, including artillery, engineering field companies, signal, medical and veterinary units. After several months of training on the wet miserable Salisbury Plains in England, Pte Morris arrived in France along with 18,000 other members of the 1st Division by February 1915.

It was at this time that Pte Stephen Morris joined his new formation called the 3rd Canadian Field Ambulance where he served as a motorcycle orderly. Coincidentally, this unit was the same one that a Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, creator of the now famous poem, "In Flanders Fields", would later join. (The poem was inspired by the death of a close friend Lieut. Alex Helmer. John McCrae's poem has become a symbol for the suffering and loss of a generation during the Great War)

Following the arrival of the First Contingent in France, Pte Morris would see his first fighting at Neuve-Chapelle by the 10th of March. The Battle of Neuve-Chapelle was significant for the Canadian Expeditionary Force because it was the first time that they were in action with the enemy (with the exception of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which was serving with the British brigade). The casualties of the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle were insignificant (only 100 Canadians died) in comparison with what the island of Newfoundland would suffer at the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. To many Canadians, July 1st represents Canada's birthday and reason to celebrate. To Newfoundlanders, July 1, 1916, has come to symbolize the horror of war. On that morning, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment suffered 684 casualties, of whom 310 had been killed. The flower of Newfoundland (which was a still under British rule) was lost on this single morning, many of whom Stephen Morris would have known personally.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force missed the carnage of Beaumont Hamel; however, Canadian units would soon be deployed on the Somme in August.

Pte. Stephen Morris would never live to see the carnage of the battle of the Somme. He was accidentally killed by impact from a light engine locomotive whilst motorcycling over a level crossing on the 29th of July 1916. In the court of inquiry that was conducted by Major A.B.Donaldson on the 30th of July, it was determined that had Pte Morris "obeyed the warning given by the signal man the accident would have been adverted".

Had Pte. Morris had been drinking at the time of his death? We will never know.

It stands to reason that Stephen was deeply effected by the loss of so many fellows Newfoundlanders. Whether or not his grief clouded his judgement is a distinct possibility.

Stephen is buried not very far from the level railway crossing where he was killed at Poperinghe, Military Cemetery in Belgium. Stephen, who was 33 at the time of his death, left everything to his father, Joseph Morris in Trinity Harbour, Newfoundland. After the war, Joseph Morris would have received Stephen's medals, which included the British War Medal, the 1914 Star and the Victory Medal. All of the medals, have which survived these past 85 years, have been returned this past summer to Trinity Harbour. At the time of his death, these items would have been received along with the Memorial Cross (better known as the Silver Cross) given to his mother (if alive), in addition to a commemorative letter and scroll from the King. The next of kin would have also received a bronze plaque with the dead man's name inscribed. The troops referred to them as the Dead Man's Penny. Aside from the medals, none of the other items have survived these past 85 years.

Pte Morris's Attestation Papers

Pte Morris's School Marks, Death Certificate and Burial Report

Pte Morris' Bibliography

 

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Return to the Main Military Records Index

Military Records Contact: Daniel B. Breen

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