Remembering today on the centenary of his death Pioneer William Morrey, a gas and water fitter at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo who died on 27 June 2016 along with several others of the 1st Battalion Special Brigade, Royal Engineers (a gas unit?)
Morrey as a Special Brigade serviceman was mentioned on a forum entry as part of research by Terry Reeves at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?/topic/547-royal-engineers-special-brigade/&page=3
Morrey is commemorated on the Widnes War Memorial in Victoria Park, Widnes, Cheshire as well as the Gorton Park Cemetery war memorial for Belle Vue zoo staff.
Pioneer William Morrey No.130519 21st Section, 1st Bn, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers
Born : Widnes, Lancashire.
Enlisted : Manchester, 20th January, 1916.
Resided : The Lodge, Halton View, Widnes.
Died of wounds in France on 27th June, 1916, aged 21.
Buried at Beauval Communal Cemetery, Row B, Grave 17.
Commemorated at St Ambrose church in Halton View.
William Morrey was the second son of William & Lydia Morrey and died in No.4 Casualty Clearing Station on the 27th June as result of gas poisoning on the previous day.
His sister, Mrs Dutton of Milton Road, Widnes, received a letter from an Army Chaplain, Reverend H.D.W. Dennison, CF, in it he wrote….
“It is with deep regret that I have to tell you of the death of your brother, Pioneer W. Morrey. He was admitted into this hospital yesterday afternoon suffering severely from gas poisoning, and though everything possible was done for him, he died early this morning. I am burying him this afternoon with four of his comrades who suffered the same fate in Beauval Cemetery. May he rest in peace and, and may God comfort sad hearts that his loss will cause……”
An old boy of Simms Cross school, William Morrey also attended St Ambrose church and Sunday School and was a member of the Gymnasium at St Paul`s Parochial Rooms.
On leaving school, William worked for five years as an apprentice gas & water fitter at the Corporation Gas Works in Widnes.
Before his enlistment under the Derby Scheme he worked as a fitter at the Zoological Gardens at Belle Vue, Manchester.
William Morrey joined up on 20th January, 1916 into the 14th Bn, The Manchester Regiment, regimental number 32486. In March 1916 that same year he was transferred to the Royal Engineers and sent to France.
He wrote his last letter home in mid June 1916 and in it he said he was in the best of health and expected to be moved nearer to the front line.
The Special Brigade, Royal Engineers was a unit formed to counter the German Gas threat, who were employed to dispense poison gas from the allied trenches towards the enemy lines.
It is possible that William Morrey was gassed carrying out this task as accidents and the effect of shell-fire on the equipment caused leaks on a regular basis.
Directly alongside Morrey in three other graves B 14-16 are three others of this special Battalion killed on the same day,
Pioneer 129027 Richard Brown,
Pioneer 128027 James Duckett (also from Manchester)
Pioneer 128805 Walter Norman Welton.
CWGC lists Morrey as the son of William and Lydia Morrey, of Widnes.
Mr A.E. Morrey of 13 Ollier Street, Widnes, Lancs appears to have chosen the family inscription on his CWGC headstone: “He gave his life for Freedom”
William Morrey and colleagues remembered.
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 27 June 2016.