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Aber Valley Heritage Museum
Gwern Avenue
Senghenydd
CF83 4HA
Tel: 02920 830445
E-mail:  senghen.heritage@btconnect.com

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2nd Lieutenant Arthur Robert Morgan

2nd Lieutenant Arthur Robert Morgan

Family history:  Thomas Morgan lived for some years in Senghenydd along with his wife Gwenllian and his 3 sons, Evan, Arthur and Ivor (my grandfather).  The family were living in Coronation Terrace Senghenydd in October 1913 and the 2 eldest sons Evan and Arthur along with their father worked in the Universal Colliery. ,Both father and son (Arthur) were blacksmiths.

Arthur Robert Morgan South Wales BorderersOctober 1913 Arthur was 18 years old (born 1st Aug 1895) and Evan about 20. My own grandfather (Ivor) was just 10 – born 1st December 1902.

14 October 1913  Arthur was, according to his own account, in one of the cages when the explosion occurred and recalled how the cage was virtually “blown back to the surface”.

Evan his elder brother was not on shift that morning but was one of a party of rescuers who went down the pit to search for survivors. In doing so Evan was exposed to the toxic after effects of the explosion which caused such damage to his lungs that he could no longer work underground, in fact Evan moved to Slough to become a taxi driver!

Arthur was amazingly unhurt and returned to work. To have 3 men of the family working in the pit with no fatalities on that terrible day must have been nothing short of a miracle for which his mother must have been eternally grateful. 

The family were not immune to tragedy – there was a youngest child – Gwenllian – she was born with a club foot and survived an operation to correct this only to die from measles when she was just 18 months old. She passed the measles to my 4 year old grandfather who thankfully did recover but as a result was deaf for the rest of his life. A lesson to those who think measles is a simple childhood disease!

“Lucky” Arthur  However preservation of life by miracle/luck/guardian angel did not stop there for Arthur. On 4th August 1914 the Great War broke out and on 5th September Arthur – then aged just 19 joined up – just like many other miners who wanted to get away from the danger of working underground. Little did they know of course that they were walking into a much graver danger from which they had even less hope of survival.

Arthur at just 5 feet 4 with an expanded chest measurement of only 34 inches weighing 122 lbs. (8 stone 10) joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and his war records show just how fortunate he was – although I suspect he may not have thought so at the time.

Arthur started his service as a private but within 10 days he had been promoted to Corporal and by 12 Dec 1914 Sergeant. He was part of the original British Expeditionary Force and held all 3 WW1 Medals (known as Pip Squeak and Wilfred) including the Mons Star. He served in the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) where he was wounded and was evacuated home via Salonika and Malta.

Once recovered he returned to war, this time to the Western Front and served in France throughout 1916 including the infamous Battle of the Somme which took place between July and November of that year. I have a postcard sent by Arthur to my grandfather in October 1916 with a note that he was “In the pink”!!!

In 1917 – Arthur was in Flanders (Belgium) and fought at that final Great War apocalyptic push that put the last nail in the coffin for many of that doomed generation - the second Battle of Ypres better known as Passchendaele.  Arthur was wounded for the second time whilst attacking the Chateau at Zillebeke – his records show a gunshot wound to the hand but this may also have been a shrapnel wound as very often they were described identically.

Once again he escaped a more sombre fate and returned home to recover. In 1918 Arthur was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant – not bad for a valleys boy – and returned to the Western Front without further mishap. 

When the war ended Arthur remained in the army for a while helping clear up the aftermath of 4 years of conflict then finally returned home. He married in 1922 and had 3 sons.

Arthur lived until he was over 90 years old – he never returned to the pit and due to his physical war injuries (which were to his hands) his time as a blacksmith was also over – perhaps not so lucky after all. What mental injuries he may have suffered we will never know.

He served as a territorial army Lieutenant until 1943 and was a lifelong member of the Royal British Legion. When he died he had a moving military funeral as befitting one of the last “Old Contemptibles”. 

I remember him well as a small twinkling man with a great sense of humour optimism and sense of duty. He wrote wonderful poetry some referring to his days serving in the Great War but like so many others never spoke of that time. Only after his death did we research his war records and found out the extent of his service and his lucky streak which certainly started on the day he survived the Senghenydd Disaster of 1913.

‘On Remembrance Sunday’

A trumpet sounds reveille,
loud and clear two minutes pass into eternity,
in the sadness of silent prayer visions,
bitter sweet are borne to me.
Cemeteries of service men, a poppy wreath,
white crosses glistening in the sun,
symbols of a faith true until death and the price of freedom, dearly won.

Grey haired and wan, we know grow old, 
in memory lane meet absent friends,
comrades again, the meek and bold.
Marching to glory where the rainbow ends in Flanders fields
where the poppies blend,
with shrapnel’s screech and big guns thud,
sharing the draws on a last fag end
in a dug out, deep beneath the mud.

At zero hour the barrage lifts,
we press on to the flaming ridge,
dread taking it, the battle centre shifts we stand to with our wounded and our dead,
relieved at last to move back for the comfort
of a straw filled bed,
to toss and turn in that street we lack,
and dream of chums now lying dead.

Dead! and closed forever,
those steadfast eyes no more to see the sun,
the winding trail through growing corn to
rainbows in the skies.
Gone like a withered leaf before an Autumn’s gale,
for this is war,
its glories torn apart the heavens re-echo with its shame,
and God looks down with an aching heart,
on the carnage wrought in his Holy name.

They live! these comrades we mourn as dead,
immortal souls upon another sphere,
like a star, a shining light they shed, 
to guide us through that slough of fear.
And this to them, my last “amen”,
each evening I’ll light a candle for you,
till that morning dawns when we meet again.

Poem written by 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Morgan 

Information Source: Ceri Rees, Great Niece
 

PASSCHENDAELE (THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES)

A typical act of bravery took place on 17th August 1917 when Sgt Gilbert Lloyd, (Senghenydd), South Wales Borderers who, together with five others soldiers, held an isolated position until his battalion had been relieved and then brought out their wounded whilst still under fire.

He was awarded the MM at a local ceremony held on “The Rec” in August 19, 1919.  At this same ceremony where the villagers turned out in their thousands to see Colonel H E Morgan Lindsay, CB, DSO award the decorations to Sgt Lloyd and the men and also to the families of those Killed in Action (KIA). All listed below.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)   Military Medal (MM)

Cpl. Tom Locke Sapper Robert Jackson

Pte. William Higgs Bdr. H C Fleet

Dvr. R G Taylor

Gnr. David Davies

Sgt. King Humphries

Pte. Syd Edwards

 

Distinguished Conduct Medal Military Cross (MC)

Sgt. T H Brown (KIA) Lt. J A Roberts(KIA)

(accepted by his wife) (accepted by his father)

Photo of Sgt Gilbert Lloyd

 

Wounded on three occasions before winning the MM in 1917.  Became a

 

Lieutenant in Home Guard, Aber and

and Senghenydd Platoon 1940-46.

Secretary of local Ex-Servicemen’s

Club for over 50 years.