World War One exhibition launches in Honiton

18:22 28 July 2014

Tony Simpson gets ready for the launch of his new exhibition Documents of a Great War Soldier.

Tony Simpson gets ready for the launch of his new exhibition Documents of a Great War Soldier.

Archant

The impact on wives and families who lost loved ones during the battles of World War One will be explored in a new exhibition in Honiton.

The exhibition, Documents of a Great War Soldier, runs from Saturday, July 26, to August 9, at Honiton Library.

It features what are thought to be the last letters sent by Royal Engineer Sapper James Morris from the trenches to his wife and family before he was shot by a sniper in August 1916.

A ‘killed in action’ telegram, a letter from a commanding officer and padre to his family, and other documents from his family will be on display.

Community historian Tony Simpson, who has put together the exhibition about his grandfather, said: “Much of the commemoration of World War One naturally focuses on those who fought especially those who died. I wanted to show the impact on wives and families who also paid the supreme sacrifice for many years after the war, such as those of James Morris, who was my grandfather.

“On average 400 killed-in -action notices went out every day of the war.

“In my street alone 90 men went to war and 13 widows had a letter from the King which my grandmother said he could not possibly have written.”

Mr Simpson says the story of Sapper Morris, who was 43 and a father of six, is a rather unusual one. He served in two different regiments. Prior to the war he had served 12 years as a professional soldier in the South Wales Borders but was discharged from the reserves when war began.

In 1916, after heavy losses in Kitchener’s volunteer army, James enlisted in the Royal Engineers; as a miner he was posted to a tunnelling company and was sent to the Flanders front where he was killed in action.

As part of the exhibition a letter from Defence Minister Lord Astor in 2013 to James’s family will be on display.

They requested that James’promotion, which had been recommended before he was killed, is honoured for the centenary of World War One on August 4.

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