The Morgans moved around the country during Walter’s childhood, as one might expect of the family of a young clergyman. Walter Giles Morgan, the head of the family, was curate of Swanton Morley with Worthing in Norfolk when his first son, Walter, was born 5 September 1886, and of St Mary, Bredin in Kent when a second son was born the following year. By 1891 the family was based in Bath, where Walter G. Chapman was curate of St Luke’s. The family was completed when Alice Morgan, Walter’s wife, gave birth to a daughter Caroline in 1899, by which time the family was living in Kings Lynn.
Walter C. Morgan attended King Edward VII Grammar School at Kings Lynn, before being accepted as a probationary student at Durham University in Michaelmas term 1907. It is not until the Easter term of 1908 that he is recorded as an Arts student attending lectures on arithmetic and logic in the university, and indeed this is the only term in which he appears to have attended such lectures. His brother John Campbell Chapman entered the college in the same year. Their father, Walter Giles Morgan, who had himself been an Unattached member of Durham University and received a BA degree in 1905, went on to be awarded a MA in 1911 as a Non-Collegiate student. While John C. Morgan was awarded a BA in 1914, Walter did not complete his degree.
Cricket seems to have been a more valued preoccupation, for between 1907 and 1909 there are numerous mentions of Walter C. Morgan’s prowess with the bat. He was joined at the crease by his younger brother John: The Sphinx student magazine reports that “in the batting line, the brothers Morgan gave University College a splendid start”, and both brothers were in the college team that won the Grey Cup in 1908. Walter C. Chapman also attended the University Student’s Congress in Belfast in 1908 as an athletic representative. He was placed second in the 220 yard race and third in the 100 yard race. By 1911 he was working as an assistant schoolmaster at a school at The Dene in Caterham, Surrey, and still making runs on the cricket pitch. His name is found in Wisden on the Great War (2014).
Walter C. Morgan was quick to enlist upon the declaration of war, and on 27 November 1914 he was gazetted as a temporary second lieutenant in the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment. This service battalion had formed in Norwich in September 1914 and was attached to the 53rd Brigade in the 18th (Eastern) Division. Following training in this country, the division was ordered to France, disembarking at Boulogne on 26 July 1915.
Nearly 12 months later in the early days of the Somme campaign, holding Delville Wood became an objective for both sides. The Allies planned a bombardment to precede an infantry attack which was expected to be a fairly quick affair. However, German forces were already in a commanding position and the fighting became fierce.
The battalion’s war diary records that on 19 July at 01:30, the Colonel of 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment received orders to mount a counter-attack on Delville Wood as soon as was possible: delays in reaching their start line meant that the attack was not launched until 07:15. The 18th Division was part of the Assaulting Line which was to take the whole of the south part of the wood from west to east and as far as ‘Princes Street’ (the middle ride through the wood). The terrain – afterwards not a single tree was left intact - was difficult for machine gunners and bombers and many troops became involved in desperate hand-to-hand fighting. The battalion war diary (WO 95/2040/1) gives a detailed account of the day’s events. The action which had started on 15 July in the end lasted until 3 September.
Although they achieved their objective, occupying the southern part of the wood, the attack of 19 July cost the 8th Battalion dearly, with 11 officers and 288 other ranks listed as casualties. Three officers had been killed, one of whom was Second Lieutenant W. C. Morgan.
Walter Morgan’s grave is unrecorded, and so his service to his country is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. A plaque to his memory was erected in the church of St Stephen, Norwick in 1919, bearing the inscription, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. He is also commemorated on the Kings Lynn war memorial, and in Durham University’s Roll of Service.