Towards the end of last year we received a donation of items which succinctly document the journey of two brothers during the First World War, from their enlistment to the Cavalry to their final roles in the Tank Corps. The military careers of the Morris brothers reflect the huge technological change that took place on the battlefield during the First World War.
Brothers, James and Lawrence Morris, were very close and worked as butchers in civilian life. Together, in 1915, they joined the King Edward Horse, following each other then into the Northumberland Fusiliers and finally the Tank Corps.
Amongst the items donated are letters and postcards written between the brothers and their parents indicating how close the family were. Their parents were of course always keen for news of their sons’ safety:
“I am very anxious to know how you are, as everything seems so gloomy and we get very little news. I have just got a letter from Lawrence, he is thinking they are coming back …
I do wish you were coming with him.
From your loving Mum and Dad.”
Unfortunately only one brother would return home, James was killed in action whilst serving with 11th Battalion Tank Corps on 28th September 1918. For his brother Lawrence, the news was hard to bear:
“I am bitterly upset to hear the news of Jim but perhaps there has been a mistake.” (9th October 1918)
Sadly there was no mistake; his parents had already received confirmation of this terrible news in a letter from James’ Commanding Officer:
“He was buried yesterday by his tank and as soon as possible a suitable cross will be put up.” (1st October 1918)
These letters, along with James Morris’ medal group and memorial plaque, cap badges, sweetheart brooches and photographs of the brothers are showcased in the ‘Warhorse to Horsepower’ exhibition, which opened in April 2014. The collection not only demonstrates the great technological progress at this time but also the personal story of two close brothers who like so many thousands of others, were just aiming to get through it all and return home safely to their family.
Find out more about tank crews in the First World War in The Tank Museum’s Tank Men exhibition.