This year marks 100 years since the start of the First World War.
This same year remembers the 70th anniversary of the D–Day Landings.
Jim Morgan Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Artillery was involved in that epic day. At that time he was in his 30’s, and had been in the Essex Regiment of The Territorial Army. He was called up at the beginning of the war. Some months before the Day he had volunteered to make a terrifying sortie in a two man mini-sub to take samples of the soil from the Normandy beaches. In a small one man dinghy from the sub with large canisters round his waist he went ashore at the dead of night to collect these samples before rowing back to the sub.
On D–Day he landed on Sword beach in the first echelon and was a Beachmaster organising the exit from the beach with the troops and equipment. It is for his deeds in leading his Battalion, liberating towns and villages in France, Belgium and Holland whilst leading his men through minefields that he was awarded the M.B.E. He went onto Germany and also Belsen.
He was my father–in–law and like most war veterans did not talk much about his exploits. Indeed, when I first met him he was in the tie cloth business and often travelled to Germany in Bielefeld.
As the years wore on he spoke from time to time about those terrible times of War. In 1985 the family, with his wife Aimee and two daughters, Meryl (born before the war) and Helen (Jim was a Trojan - born after the war), visited Arromanches Les Bain the main artificial port known as Port Winston. I was married to Helen, and was the enthusiastic camera man. We walked over the Pegasus Bridge but more importantly visited the village of Cauverville near Caen which he had liberated in the early days of June 1944. When we arrived 41 years after, there was bunting down the street and in the village hall. A buffet was laid out to celebrate his return. It was a wonderful day. Jim spoke in his school boy French and the Mayor welcomed him back to the village.
Recently - it came as a surprise to Helen – that as a significant mark of these Frenchmen’s lasting impression of this man’s gallantry the villagers have named a road, a Close, after him on a new residential development.
What a wonderful tribute to such an Old Southendian.
Was James Morgan a hero? Of course he was, but he would say ‘so were many thousands of others.’