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Capt Arthur de Bells Adam (MC)
1885 - 1916

CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916

Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916

Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916

Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft

Pte 21665 William Bertram Morton

  • Age: 33
  • From: Banbridge, Co.Down
  • Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
  • K.I.A Tuesday 17th October 1916
  • Commemorated at: Thiepval Memorial
    Panel Ref: P&F1D8B &8 C.
William Bertram Morton was born in July 1883 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland, the son of Joseph Morton and his wife Grace Isabella (née Linn). His parents were both born in Banbridge, married in 1875, and had 13 children, four of whom died young.

William had older siblings Grace, George, and Isabel, and younger siblings Richard, Reginald, Mary, Dorothy, and John.  His father was a wholesale seed merchant in Banbridge with a business on Commercial Road.

In 1901 the family is living in House 4, Castlewellan Road, Banbridge, with 10 children and a nurse.  William is 17, listed as a scholar.

The 1911 census finds them at House 5, Castlewellan Road, with seven children and a servant. His father Joseph is 70, a merchant, his mother Grace is 57.  Grace 30, and Dorothy 19, have no occupation, George, 29, is a merchant like his father, William 27, Richard 25, Reginald 23, and John 18 are all listed as ‘business’ (probably helping in their father’s business).

He was a keen sportsman and formerly played Hockey for Banbridge Hockey Club and represented Ireland in International matches against England,Sscotland and Wales. he was once chosen to to play for the Midlands in the English International Trial matches.  

William enlisted in Liverpool on 11th September 1914, as Private 21665, 19th (Pals) Bn, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, giving his age as 31 years and 44 days, and his occupation as traveller (likely as a representative for his father’s seed business).  He is described as being 5’ 8 and a quarter inches tall, weighing 145 lbs, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  He gives his next of kin as his father Joseph, in Banbridge, and his religion is listed as Church of England (although the census records show all the family as Presbyterian).

His brothers Reginald and John (Jack) both served as 2nd Lieutenants in the Royal Irish Rifles.

William trained at Knowsley near Liverpool, then at Belton Lark in Lincolnshire, and finally at Larkhill Camp in Salisbury Plain.  During training William was guilty of a number of conduct infractions:
18/4/1915 Knowsley - Absent without leave 18-25 April;  Admonished.
5/6/1915 Belton Park - improper conduct on guard mounting parade;  Awarded 2 extra guards
4/9/1915 Larkhill - Absent without leave 4-5 Sept;  14 days confined to barracks
10/10/1915 Larkhill - Absent without leave 10/10/-3/11;  14 days detention

He shipped to France with his battalion, disembarking at Boulogne on 7th November 1915.  By July 1916 the Pals battalions were in front line trenches at Maricourt in the Somme.  William survived the bloody days of fighting.

On 13 July 1916 his brother Reginald was listed as Wounded and Missing.  His father learned later that month that Reginald had been taken prisoner.

By July 1916, as his father had not heard from William in several weeks, he wrote to Infantry Records, Preston: 

“Dear Sir, I have not heard from my son, Private W. B. Morton, 19th Kings Liverpool Regiment, Machine Gun Section 21665, No.21665, 39th Division, B.E.F. France for some weeks and I made an enquiry through the British Red Cross Society, 18 Carlton House Terrace, London, who directed me to enquire from you if you could give me any information about him.  I enclose stamped addressed envelope and await the favour of your reply.  Thanking you in anticipation. Yours faithfully, Joseph Morton.” 

The response is not recorded in his record.

William’s service record shows -

20/7/1916 Sick, to Field Ambulance
24/7/1916 To No.5 Casualty Clearing Station
24/7/1916 Admitted 22nd General Hospital
15/8/1916 To Con(valescent?) Depot, Etaples
23/9/1916 Rejoined his unit in the field

William was declared Missing on 17th October. We can only imagine the agonies his family went through having a second son Missing in Action so soon after the first, and the hope they must have clung to, that he, like his brother, had been captured.

However, on 8th November 1916 the Belfast News Letter wrote that William had been unofficially reported killed.  The next day the paper reported that William had been killed by a shell on the night of the 19th [sic] October.  William’s death in action was later assumed to have occurred on 17th October. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France. 

His father, at Commercial Road, Banbridge, was informed on 18/4/1917 there were no personal effects to be sent.  His parents, living at “Enville”, Banbridge, received William’s effects, including a War Gratuity of £9.

William earned his three medals, which his father signed for.

Reginald had been captured at Thiepval on the first day of the Somme and spent nearly two years as a PoW in Germany. He was repatriated through Holland in May 1918.

The war was not yet over and the family’s anguish continued.  His father enquired with the International Red Cross in June 1918 as Jack had not been heard from since March. He learned in July his son had been captured at St. Quentin on 21st March 1918 with gunshot wounds to his right leg and left foot.

Reginald and Jack both survived the war.  Jack received a disability pension for his wounds. 

In 1920 his father provided formation on William’s living relatives.  His parents were still living at “Enville”, Banbridge, with his brothers Richard 34, Reginald 31, and John 27, and sisters Grace 32, Isabel 30, Mary 24, and Dorothy 23.  His brother George had died.  His father died in 1931 and mother in 1934.

William is commemorated on Ireland’s National Roll of Honour (as William Bertron). He is also commemorated on the Banbridge Town War Memorial.

Our gratful thanks are extended to Linda Woodfine Michelini for the exhaustive research into William Bertram and also to Nigel Henderson for providing the photograph of William and also for a newspaper article containing some of the biographical details. His website is well worth a visit: Great War Belfast Clippings.

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