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44194 Captain Thomas James Morrow, 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment.

44194 Captain Thomas James Morrow, 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment.


Tom Morrow was born in Timaru on 26 June 1883, the oldest of three brothers. He attended Sawyers Bay and Kaikorai Schools before Otago Boys High and then Otago University, where he obtained an MA degree and teaching certificate. After teaching at Dunback School and Balclutha High, he joined the staff of Nelson College in 1915. Following his marriage to (Mary known as Mamie) in December 1916, Tom volunteered for service, having already been a cadet at school and an officer as a teacher.

He embarked for England from Wellington on 12 June 1917 and arrived in England in August, where his unit got down to training on Salisbury Plain. He was sent to France in October 1917 and posted to the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, then recovering after the disaster at Passchaendale in camp near Boulogne. Tom spent the next year serving in the trenches with his men, with only brief respite of leave and training in new tactics away from the front.

Out of many experiences, one incident which clearly affected Tom was the loss of his batman (soldier servant), 47354 Pte Howard McKnight of Timaru. McKnight was killed whilst running a message for Tom on 25 August 1918. Tom later penned a poem entitled ‘Mac – Killed in Action, 25/8/18’, one of a number he wrote about the war.   

On 31 August 1918, Tom met his younger brother, Will, who was a Sergeant serving with the 2nd Battalion, Otago Regiment in France. It would be the last time they would meet. Will was awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry and devotion to duty shortly afterwards. On 9 October, Tom was leading his men beyond the Cambrai-Caudry railway line when, at 4.00pm he was struck in the head by machine gun fire and hospitalised. Just two hours after this and only a mile away, his brother Will was advancing with his own battalion when a lone shell landed near him, killing him and three other men.

Tom Morrow was evacuated to England and eventually New Zealand and discharged from the army on 26 March 1919. He returned to teaching at Nelson College, and he and Mamie had a daughter. Unfortunately, Tom had suffered more from his war service than anticipated and died at Nelson Hospital on 17 December 1923. Tom’s poems, some written about the war, still survive.


Author: simbath_63