Date added: 18 Jun 2015
Private John Morris and the history of The King’s Own Regiment
The King’s Own Regiment was a regiment of the British army. It served under various titles and fought in many wars and conflicts, including both the world wars as well as the Napoleonic wars.
Private John Morris was part of this regiment, as part of the 4th foot, and he foughtwith them at Waterloo. Due to limited information, all we know about Private John Morris is that he was born in Westminster in 1783 and after battle he was issued with a Waterloo medal.
We think that his disappearance into the mists of time can tell us quite a lot about the problems faced by historians trying to recreate Wellington’s army!
A Brief History of the King’s Own Regiment
In July 1680, The King’s Own Regiment was formed by King Charles II as part of the creation of the new Regular Army. It was formed to help defend Tangier in North Africa - a new part of the growing British Empire and because of this at that time it was known as the 2nd Tangier Regiment.
Men were recruited in Plymouth and London. Many of them had already taken part in military service. Their first Colonel, the Earl of Plymouth, died in Tangier before the Regiment arrived. When the Regiment returned from Africa it became known as The Queen'sRegiment.
The regiment fought at Sedgemoor in 1685 on the side of King James II against the Duke of Monmouth who was trying to claim the crown. However, when Price William of Orange landed in England to overthrow King James II, the Regiment switched their loyalty to him and fought for him against James. When William of Orange became King of England, he rewarded the regiment for their loyalty by creating their regimental badge, the Lion of England.
The King’s Own Regiment at the Battle of Waterloo
When Napoleon escaped from the Isle of Elba in 1815, the King’s Own marched with Wellington’s army to fight him at Waterloo. They arrived in Antwerp around the 12th of June, six days before the battle. The Regiment had no opportunity to reequip themselves after coming off the American Campaign and as such the clothing and boots of both officers and men are described by the papers of day as "in almost deplorable condition".
As well as this, the Regiment was very weak in numbers, and had no Field Officer apart from the Colonel. Despite this they were experienced and their morale was high. Their spirit, however, was excellent, and all the men had been through one or two campaigns. After landing the Regiment marched to Ghent where they were formed into the 10th Brigade under Sir John Lambert.
On the 18th of June they arrived at Waterloo and a Lieutenant described their arrival as"we arrived about half-past eight o'clock, on the morning of the 18th June, band playing, colours flying." They took up a position in the centre of Wellington’s army and came into the front line of the battle at about three o’clock. Here they fought against the French until about seven o’clock when Wellington ordered a general advance against the French. This pushed the French back and they fled, ending the battle of Waterloo.
As aninfantry soldier, John Morris would have been part of this fighting. The Regiment won much praise for its behaviour at the battle and as such we can cautiously infer that John Morris would have fought bravely for his country.
Numbersof soldiers of the King’s Own Regiment at Waterloo
Officers -1 Field Officer, 2Captains, 20 Subalterns, and 4 Staff.
Non-commissionedofficers and file -36 sergeants, 11 drummers and 596 Privates.
Loss inAction - 10 Officers, 114 Menkilled and wounded.
Parade strength at Waterloo.Officers -1 Field Officer, 2 Captains, 20 Subalterns, and 4 Staff.
Non-commissioned officers and file - 36 sergeants, 11 drummers and 596 Privates.
Loss inAction - 10 Officers, 114 Men killed and wounded.
Artefacts associated with Private John Morris and the Battle Of Waterloo
Soldiers would have received this shilling when they were enlisted into the army. They could use this shilling as a ticket for a bounty which paid out from a wage of£2 to £23 (That is about £2,900 today). As we don’t know how John Morris joined the King’s Own Regiment it is possible that he was enlisted this way.
Military General Service Medal
This was a medal that was given to soldiers that would have fought against Napoleon and the French army - like John Morris.
Private Soldier’s Medal
This was issued to soldiers who fought at Waterloo. We know that John Morris received one of these after the battle.
This is a sewing kit used by soldiers at Waterloo to look after their uniforms. It is likely the John Morris would have used this.
This is a trumpet, known as a field bugle and it was used to signal the cavalry charge at the battle. Although John Morris was an infantry soldier, he would have heard this as he fought.
Music from song 'Boney was a warrior'
This is music from a song called ‘Boney was a warrior’. It was a song that made fun of Napoleon and was sung in pubs around England. John Morris would probably have heard this and may have even sung it himself.
19th Century Soldier's Coat
This is a soldier’s coat that was worn in the 19th century. It was a very important part of their uniform and they were given these coats when they joined the army. Private John Morris may well have had one of these.
'Waterloo 'film poster'
This is a poster advertising the film ‘Waterloo’ from the 1970s. Although John Morris would not have seen the film, it is about the Battle of Waterloo which he fought in and so is relevant in that respect.
Charles Bell paintings
These are paintings by Charles Bell of injuries suffered by soldiers on the battlefield.Charles Bell was an army surgeon who treated these injuries at Waterloo so these drawings are quite accurate. We don’t know if John Morris was wounded at Waterloo, but if he was it may have been an injury like this. If not, he would certainly have witnessed his fellow soldiers getting injured so this would have been a familiar sight to him.
This is a rifle used by officers at Waterloo. It was more accurate than most rifles and more expensive to make. John Morris would not have used it, but his officer of his regiment may well have done.