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Colonel Hubert Horatio Shirley Morant (1870-1946)


Commanding officer 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry


Major Hubert Horatio Shirley Morant was commanding the Durham Light Infantry Depot at Newcastle when Britain entered the First World War. He oversaw the mobilisation of reservists until on 19 August 1914 he was made Colonel and put in command of the newly raised 10th Battalion, Durham light Infantry (who became known as the ‘Shiny Tenth’).

The battalion trained in the south of England before leaving Folkestone for Boulogne on 21 May 1915, the battalion moving straight on to Belgium.

As an officer in the regular army, Morant knew several other officers from his own training and earlier engagements, some of which were keen to serve with him. Another man who served with Morant throughout his time commanding the 10th Battalion was his servant from home, Private Thomas Achilles. Records in the Morant collection suggest he was very much the master but came to respect Achilles and held an underlying affection for him.

There are three kinds of account written by Morant of his time in the war. There are his contributions to the official war diary, kept by all units, which provides details of the battalion’s operations. After the war, he wrote his memoirs, including things he sent home from the war, which also gives details of the battalion’s experiences but also his personal experiences and anecdotes concerning friends. Lastly, he regularly wrote letters to his wife, Helen. As a colonel, as well as being privy to more information, he was often the censor, and his letters provide some candid accounts of his experiences both in the war and with other officers, including voicing his not always favourable opinion of some of his seniors. As is often the case, the letters received at the front do not survive, however, Morant seems to respond methodically to what was in the letters he received, giving a sense, if sometimes cryptic, of life at home.

Both Morant and his wife were from hunting families. The 10th Battalion wore a red bugle (the Durham Light Infantry insignia) on the back of their collars. Many of these were made by Helen Morant from old hunting jackets that had been donated.

In letters home, Morant bemoaned being passed over for commanding a Brigade as others around him rose up, however, from his memoirs and later letters, it is clear that he was forever loyal to the men of the ‘Shiny Tenth’. He was eventually made a temporary Brigadier in January 1918, taking command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, and from September that year, the 147th Infantry Brigade, remaining in France until the end of March 1919.

In the course of the war, Colonel Morant was wounded four times and received the Distinguished Service Order and Bar.

Sources:
The papers of Hubert Morant, Durham County Record Office, D/DLI 7/1230

Birth date: 1870-Dec-27

Death date: 1946-Sep-20

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Hexham, Northumberland

Education: Charterhouse School, Godalming; Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 1888-1889

Organisation membership: Durham Light Infantry, 10th Battalion

Family: Wife: Isabella Helen Straker (known as Helen)
Children: Doreen Shirley Morant, Alice Bettine Morant, John Locke Straker Morant (served with the Durham Light Infantry in the Second World War)

Military service:

1889-Oct-01: Commissioned Second Lieutenant, Durham Light Infantry
1892: Lieutenant
1898-1908: Employed with Egyptian Army, retired with rank of Kaimakam, with the honorary title of Bey (suffix to name)
1899: Captain
1910: Major
Commanding Durham Light Infantry depot at Newcastle at the outbreak of the First World War
1914-Aug-19: Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the newly raised 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, on of the first Kitchener Battalions
1918-Jan-29: Temporary Brigadier General, commanding officer 3rd Infantry Brigade
1918-Sep-04: Commanding officer 147th Infantry Brigade
1919-Jan-07: Commanding officer 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
1919-Apr-29: Commanding officer 1st Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
1924-1927: Brigade Commander Northumberland Brigade (Territorial Association) Northern Command
1927-Dec-27: Retired as Honorary Brigadier General
1928-1938: Honorary Colonel 5th (TA) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers
1937-1940: Colonel, Durham Light Infantry

Medal(s): 1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Distinguished Service Order, London Gazette 1917-Jan-01
Bar to DSO, London Gazette 1918-Jan-01

Gender: Male

Contributed by Durham County Record Office