Friday, 16 March 2012

95 years ago today

Last address in Lewis: 10 South Dell
Son of Murdo and Flora Morrison of 10 South Dell
Service unit: 3rd Gordon Highlanders
Service number: 3/5645
Discharged at Aberdeen on 29 May 1916 due to gunshot wounds and TB
Date of death: 16 March 1917 at the age of 23
Died of wounds at home
Interred: Old Ness Cemetery, Swainbost, lair 95
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

That is the summary information I have on Norman, none of whose family now remain in Ness. He died at home in South Dell, ten months after his discharge from the army. Until two years ago, he rested in an unmarked grave in the Old Ness Cemetery, and a cursory reference to him in the Roll of Honour was all that pointed to his sacrifice. He was not recorded with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission either. Well, let us have a look at his army career.

3 May 1910. At the age of 17 years and 9 months, Norman, a fisherman, enrolls with the reserves of the 3rd battalion the Gordon Highlanders at Inverness. He is described as 5 feet 6¼ ins tall, weight 116 lbs, hazel eyes, light brown hair and a Presbyterian. He is passed fit for service, and formally embodied at Aberdeen on 5 May 1910. Norman faithfully attends training every  year, from 1911 until 1914.

On 8 August 1914, four days after the outbreak of hostilities, Norman is mobilised and put on strength. He went to France on 22 June 1915, and suffered a gunshot wound to the chest on 10 August 1915, and a gunshot wound to the left knee on 25 September 1915. Norman was repatriated home, and finally discharged due to tuberculosis of the lung on 29 May 1916.

The army forms also reveal the names of his brothers, Alex and Donald. A tribute in the Stornoway Gazette also refers to his four sisters.

Following the first injury (to his right shoulder), Norman was taken to the casualty clearing station on 11 August 1915, then to Hazebrouck and finally on to the general hospital at Etaples, on the Channel coast. On 27 August, he is taken to convalescent camp at Rouen, finally to rejoin the ranks of 1st battalion Scottish Rifles on 31 August. Not four weeks later, on 25 September, he is wounded in the knee. He is once more taken to Etaples on the 28th, but finally transferred to England the next day.

On 8 January 1916, at the general hospital in Edmonton (north London), he is discharged for 12 months, until 29 November 1916. Norman is described as pale, anaemic and suffering from a cough. His temperature consistently rises to 101°F in the evening, and his sputum is found to contain large numbers of tuberculous bacilli. A permanent discharge follows on 29 May 1916. Ten months later, at around 5 o'clock in the afternoon on 16 March 1917, Norman passes away at home in South Dell.

Forward 93 years. Norman Morrison's name is found not to feature on the files of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is not recognised as a Commonwealth War Dead. A volunteer from the In From the Cold Project determines that there is a possibility that he could be recognised as such. A file is submitted to the Ministry of Defense as well as to CWGC.

In January 2011, word comes through that Norman Morrison has been recognised was Commonwealth War Dead, in other words, he died as a result of the service to King and country during the First World War. A CWGC gravestone is to be erected at the Old Cemetery in Ness.

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