British War Medal and Victory Medal, 2. Lieut R.S. Morrison, Black Watch, Royal Highlanders, Killed in Action in Mesopotamia on 7th January 1916.
2nd Lieutenant Robert Stevenson, 3rd Bn Black Watch, was a most popular and promising young man from Falkirk. Not only was he a keen sportsman, a football enthusiast who played for 2 years and as well as playing for Rest of Scotland vs Glasgow he helped his old club win the Scottish School’s Shield. He flourished at Glasgow University, studying Chemistry, particularly in Laboratory and Research work. Whilst he was also a member of the University Officer Training Corps in the Special Reserve he studied Inorganic Chemistry, Advanced Natural Philosophy and was even recommended for a scholarship for his research work in Magnetism and Electricity, later passing in Subsidiary Mathematics, earning this Bachelor of Science as 2nd in his year for Inorganic Chemistry during his final year of studies.
Once he graduated he was free to fight for his country in the War during 1915, being offered a commission with the Chemistry Corps, Royal Engineers, which he had declined in favour of joining a regiment who were in the actual fighting line, he got his wish and was made 2nd Lieutenant with the Black Watch, being gazetted on 5th December 1915.
Barely a month later he landed for service in Mesopotamia, when he was killed in action on 7th January 1916.
Not long after the Brigade had landed they were engaged in their first battle, the “Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad” between 6-8th January 1916, the highlanders were engaged against the Turks on the banks of the Tigris River, the battle between 13,300 British and 9,000 Turkish led to many casualties on both sides, over a third of the British and Indian forces became cuaslaties, with 1962 dead and 2,300 wounded.
It was a narrow victory but at a great cost, it is noted in the book that the Black Watch were simply ordered to: ‘Advance where the bullets are thickets’, it reads: “The companies moved with great rapidity and wonderful exactness considering the exhausting march before and the little practice they had in open warfare. But without covering fire, and there was little artillery fire available to cover our attach such an attack over bare open plain cannot succeed unless the enemy be few in numbers or of poor heart. The Turk was neither weak nor faint-hearted, and poured in so deadly a fire that before the leading lines were within 200 years of the enemy, 500 of the battalion had been killed or wounded. Other units suffered almost equal severity, the attack came to an inevitable halt, there were no reserves to drive it home, consequently orders were sent up from the Brigade that the infantry should dig themselves in where they were. 19 Officers and 2/3rds of the Men had been hit, including Colonel Wauchope being severely wounded by a shell and Major Hamilton Johnston taking over command.”
The Book, With a Highland Regiment in Mesopotamia, by an anonymous officer records his service as:
“R. S. Morrison, Embarked, Marseilles, 5th December 1915. Disembarked, Basrah, 31st December 1915. Killed in Action 7th January 1916.
Falkirk Herald Newspaper 15th January 1916:
“FALKIRK OFFICER KILLED IN ACTION
THE LATE SECOND-LIEUT R.S. MORRISON BLACK WATCH
Official intimation reached Falkirk on Wednesday afternoon that Second Lieutenant Robert S. Morrison, 2nd Black Watch, was killed in action in Mesopotamia between 5th and 8th inst.
Lieutenant Morrison, who was 24 years of age, was the younger son of the late Mr John Morrison, cabinetmaker and Mrs Morrison, Campfield Cottage, Galloway Street, falkirk, and grandson of Mr George Morrison, East Borland House, Denny.
He was educated at Falkirk High School, which he left in 1911, having gained the group leaving certificate. Subsequently he attended Glasgow University, where he had a brilliant career as a science student. In the 1914-15 term, he secured second place and first-class certificate Inorganic Chemistry, second-class certificate in advanced natural philosophy, and second place and first-class certificate for Laboratory Work in Advanced Natural Philosophy.
He was recommended for the Thomson Scholarship to do research work in magnetism and electricity and passed in Subsidiary Mathematics and Natural Philosophy of the final B.Sc. examinations, and in the following term he graduated B.Sc.
For a number of years he was a member of the University O.T.C. and in March last he was gazetted to the special reserve of officers.
Previously he had been offered a commission in the chemistry corps, Royal Engineers, but he declined it, as he preferred being in the actual fighting line.
He was stationed at Nigg with the 3rd Black Watch until September, when he was drafted to France, and attached to the 2nd A. and S.H. early in December he was despatched to Mesopotamia.
Lieutenant Morrison, who was a fine athletic young gentleman of typical military bearing, was extremely popular in Falkirk. He was a football enthusiast, and for 2 years in a succession played for the Rest of Scotland against Glasgow, and was also assisted his old school club in winning the Scottish School’s Shield. He was a courteous and efficient officer and his death is much deplored.”