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Army December 6, 2012
APOCKET Bible that sur-
vived World War I has been
returned to the family of the
young digger who carried it to
his death on the battlefields of France.
During a small gathering in Canberra
on Remembrance Day in the shadow of
the Australian Army Memorial, family his-
torian Darryl Johnston handed the Bible to
the relatives of Pte David Morgan.
Pte Morgan died of head wounds on
the battlefields of the Somme on April 28,
1918, and was buried near Amiens north
The Bible was gratefully accepted by
Pte Morgan's great nephew, John Morgan,
and his wife Patricia, their son Christopher
and grandson Thomas. They travelled to
Canberra from their home in the southern
Sydney suburb of Heathcote.
Pte Morgan was the son of Thomas
and Gwendoline Morgan, of Hurstville in
Sydney, and the fiancé of Mr Johnston's
great aunt, Nessie Bessell.
Before Pte Morgan left for the war he
promised Nessie he would return with
enough money to marry and buy a house.
He carried the Bible with him, a 20th
birthday present from his father, and in it
he slipped a tiny photo of his fiancée.
Pte Morgan joined the 5th Division
at Etaples on the French coast south of
Calais. Three days later he saw action for
the first time on the Western Front.
Apart from summer rest camp, short
periods in hospital and leave in England,
he spent the next year in the Somme. He
regularly wrote to Nessie and his family of
his experiences in France.
On the morning of April 27, 1918,
David and his mates were assembled in
a trench. They were about to go over the
top in another attack on the enemy when
he was shot in the head. His wound was
serious. He was stretchered to battalion
headquarters and later taken by ambulance
to the 4th Casualty Clearing Station near
Pernois. Despite the efforts of doctors and
nurses with the best medicines and equip-
ment of the time, Pte Morgan died early
the next morning.
He was buried at the Pernois British
Cemetery north west of the town of
Amiens. A small cross bearing a plate with
his details marked his grave.
On May 31, 1918, the Hurstville
Propeller newspaper reported on its front
page that Pte David Morgan of Hurstville
had died of wounds in the field. His name
appeared among a list of local boys killed
in action, wounded, missing and gassed.
Pte Morgan was later posthumously
awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War
Medal and the Victory Medal. The medals
were sent to his parents.
In 1923 Thomas and Gwendoline made
the journey to France to visit their son's
final resting-place. The cross was replaced
with a white marble headstone with a
small tribute from his family: "We have
lost, heaven has gained, one of the best the
Pte Morgan's belongings were eventu-
ally returned to his family, including the
pocket-size Bible. His medals, letters and
postcards have been lost but the Bible
has survived and has now returned to
Mr Morgan, who grew up know-
ing little of his family history, said the
Bible would be a treasured heirloom.
"No-one spoke much about our
family and especially about David's
fiancée, Nessie. We knew David was
killed in the war, but we knew very
little about his fiancée or why he
went to war."
The Morgans have recently
returned from France where they vis-
ited Pte Morgan's grave.
Mr Johnston said it was hard not
to get caught up in the emotion of
"For more than 90 years this Bible
has made its way through my family.
It has travelled half way across the
world and it has survived time and
war," he said.
"It tells the story of two fami-
lies and two young people who were
caught up in events that shaped history
and determined the rest of their lives."
Family treasure returned
World War I Bible returned to the descendants of
its original owner 94 years after his death.
Heirloom: Darryl Johnston, left, returns the Bible originally belonging to Pte David Morgan, pictured inset,
to his great nephew John Morgan, great, great, great nephew Thomas Bramley and great, great nephew
Christopher Morgan in Canberra on Remembrance Day.
Photo by LAC Bill Solomou
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