John Stewart Morton, Corporal 15/664, The Leeds Pals
John Stewart Morton was born on 15th April 1892, the son of Edward Percy Morton, who had married Florence Armitage in South Shields in 1888, where their first two children were subsequently born. Kathleen Elsie was born in 1890, and was followed by John, who was known to the family as Jack. There were three more children, Doris, Dudley and Margery, all born in Manston. But of the five only four survived. It seems likely that Dudley died, as he does not appear on the 1911 Census, though both Doris and Margery do. By this time the family had moved to Crossgates. (Find My Past census records)
Edward Morton worked in the tailoring trade. On the 1891 Census he is listed as a tailor’s cutter, but by 1901 he had become a clothing manufacturer, and was a partner in the firm of Morton and Joynt Ltd, based in Leeds but with at least one other branch, as it is listed in the Glasgow Trade Directory for 1931.
In 1907 John went to Leighton Park School, and stayed until the following year. This was, and still is, a Quaker school, with a pacifist ethos, but this did not prevent John from ultimately joining up. He played for the 2nd XI football team, but nothing else is recorded for his short school career. (Information provided by school)
On leaving school in 1908 John went into the family firm, being sent first to Messrs. Forsyth of Glasgow to gain experience. Perhaps the family firm had not branched out at this point, or perhaps he needed a wider experience. He appears on the 1911 Census as an Assistant Manager (Wholesale Tailoring), and had he survived the war he would have become a director of the company.
At the start of the war in 1914 John was 22, and he wasted no time in volunteering for the Pals. His low army number shows this, and the roll of applications has him applying to join on 3rd September, with his medical nine days later. His address was given as ‘Brentwood’, Roundhay. He was posted to C Company, No.11 Platoon, No.12 Section. (Application Roll, Leeds City Library)
Unfortunately his service record has not survived, but the school records indicate that, after initial training at Colsterdale and Fovant, he went with the battalion to Egypt, and from there to France. At some point during this period he was promoted, reaching the rank of Corporal, having twice refused a commission. (Information provided by school)
On 11th March 1915, at South Milford, he married Margaret (Peggy) Mary Meech, only daughter of Thomas Cox Meech, barrister at law, parliamentary journalist and author of a number of novels under the name Paul Urquhart. He was later named as an executor of John’s will. (Western Gazette, Yeovil, 26 March 1915, and information from school)
On 1st July 1916 John was part of the first wave of Pals to go over the top at the start of the Battle of the Somme, and became one of the almost 20,000 killed on that day. He is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No.3, Puisieux. He was subsequently awarded the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. (Ancestry Medal Card)
Of his sisters, Elsie trained as a VAD, and married an American. Margery also married and was the grandmother of Nigel Denison, who has supplied some of this information, while Doris never married, but had two fiancés killed in the war.
Researchers: Jane Luxton & Peter Taylor
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
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