Canadian Army, transferred to RFC

Edward Percival Morgan, the third Old Bedalian to lose his life in the service of his King and Country in May 1918 had actually left his country some years earlier.  An obituary published in the School's Record in 1918 stated:

"E P MORGAN (minor) was at Bedales from 1899 to 1905, then at Wye Agricultural College, and went out in 1910 to farm in Canada. Soon after the war began he came over with a battalion of Canadians from Alberta; in 1917 he was transferred to the British Army and got a commission in the Flying Corps.  After completing his training he was sent out to France in April, 1918, and on May 22nd had just returned from his first bombing raid when a nose spin brought him down on the aerodrome, and he died next day without regaining consciousness.  His elder brother, H. T. Morgan, a Machine Gun officer, was reported missing on March 21st of this year, but has since written that he is a prisoner in Germany."

Edward was born at Monte Fiano, Fiesole, Tuscany on the 1st May 1888, the son of Edward Strachan Morgan and Alicia Hewit Morgan (neé Townsend).  Edward was the Master of Classics at the Merchant Taylor's School and lived in Italy.  He translated Chronicles of the City of Perugia 1492-1503 which was published in 1905.  Alicia studied at the Slade School of Art and was an accomplished artist.  Edward was almost certainly still living in Italy when the UK census was taken in 1891. Ten years later though, on census night, 27th April 1901, he was a boarder at Bedales and appears on the school's return as a 13-year-old pupil.  At school, he was a stalwart member of the hockey team, serving as captain.  In Spring 1902, in the Junior Debate, he was the proposer of the motion “That conscription is a bad thing for the country.”  His main argument is reported as “there would be nobody to work on the farms” – a sad coincidence as when war came he gave up farming to enlist.  He was already showing an enthusiasm for agricultural pursuits, keeping bees with Eric Simon, and learning to ride.

A census of the Canadian population was taken in 1911 and Edward appears on the return for No 3 district, Macleod, in Alberta.  His date of birth is record as the 1st May 1888 and his place of birth as Italy.  His trade is given as "Rancher", an employer in his own right; there are no other household members noted living with Edward.

The Bedales School obituary records that Edward returned to England with a "battalion of Canadians from Alberta" and this is confirmed by military papers held by Library & Archives Canada.  He attested for the Canadian Over-seas Expeditionary Force at Calgary on the 7th February 1916, the attestation paper recording that he was 27 years old, five feet ten inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  A flattened end to the middle forefinger of his right hand, and a small scar on the front of his thumb on the left hand are noted as distinguishing marks.  Edward was passed fit, given the regimental number 808778, and assigned to the 137th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

After a little over six months' training, Edward arrived in England on the 30th August 1916.  He remained with the 137th Battalion until the 10th January 1917 when he was posted to the 21st Reserve Battalion at Bramshott, writing his will shortly afterwards and leaving his estate to his father who by now was living at 56 Boundary Road, St John's Wood, London NW.  In June 1917 he was struck off strength in order to take up a commission with the Royal Flying Corps and this was duly gazetted on the 18th September 1917.

Papers in AIR 76 at The National Archives in London pick up the story from where service with the CEF ends.  These confirm that Edward joined from the 21st (Reserve) Battalion, CEF but record his date of birth, incorrectly, as the 1st April 1888. The surviving single sheet in AIR 76 dates to the 17th April 1918 and gives only outline information, listing a number of different planes that Edward had flown, and also recording his death from wounds in hospital on the 22nd May 1918.  According to The Chronicle of August 1918, he had already had a near miss “whilst flying over Bedales and came down in the ‘Stepneys’ and smashed his machine without damage to himself or his observer.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Edward was serving with 206 Squadron at the time of his death. He was buried at Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery in France and later his father paid five shillings and ten pence to have the words ANIMAE MAGNAE PRODIGUS engraved on his headstone.

By Paul Nixon, with additional material by Jane Kirby

Sources: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Royal Air Force papers in AIR 76 / 243; The British Newspaper Archive; 1901 Census entry in RG 13; 1911 Canadian Census (Libraries & Archives Canada); CEF papers (Libraries & Archives Canada); Passenger lists in BT 27 (National Archives)