‘I’ll sing a song of heroes true’: A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary by PS Caleb Morris

 

 

The Glamorgan Archives holds a large number of items that tell the story of the Glamorgan Constabulary from its creation in 1841. One of the more unusual items is a poem penned by Police Sergeant Caleb Morris (PS 175) in 1918 entitled, ‘A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary’. At the time, Morris was 48 years old and past the maximum age for military service. Originally from Pembrokeshire, he had joined the Glamorgan Constabulary at the age of 24 in 1894. He was a well-known figure in the Abernant area and was promoted to Sergeant in 1915. He figured regularly in the pages of the local press, giving evidence in criminal cases heard in the local courts. Morris, however, was also known in the community for his talent in writing verse. There are several newspapers reports in this period of events where the audience was entertained by ‘topical verse’ and ‘verses of welcome’ delivered by Caleb Morris. This was a talent that he used in good effect when, in 1918, he produced his ‘Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary’.  His aim was to celebrate the men of the Constabulary who had joined the armed forces to fight in the Great War. Several hundred men from the Constabulary left their posts to join the forces and 92 lost their lives.

The poem is reproduced in full at the end of this article. It tells the story of specific events, including the desperate attempt to hold back the German advance in the early months of the war. By and large, however, it majors on the deeds of specific men. For example, Fred Smith, who was a Police Inspector at Bridgend at the outbreak of the war, and also known for his exploits on the rugby field playing for Cardiff and Bridgend. Fred had extensive military experience, having fought in the Boer War as a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Glamorgan Yeomanry, and was awarded the DCM. During the Great War, as Lieutenant Colonel Smith, he commanded the 16th (Cardiff City) Battalion of the Welsh Regiment and was awarded the DSO. After the war he returned to the police force with his appointment as Chief Superintendent at Gowerton.

The verse also tells the story of one of the legendary figures of the Glamorgan Constabulary, Company Sergeant Major, Dick Thomas. Dick Thomas had joined the force in 1904 and was promoted to Sergeant and stationed at Bridgend in 1913. He was widely admired as an exceptional rugby player for Bridgend, Mountain Ash and Wales. In particular, he had the distinction of playing in the first Welsh side to win the Grand Slam in 1908. He is remembered as one of the heroes of the assault by the Welsh Regiment on the heavily defended German positions at Mametz Wood on 7 July 1916.

One of the most poignant stories is that of James Angus, originally from Brecon. Angus had joined the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1893 and was stationed at Barry and Abercynon. Like Fred Smith, he had military experience. His father had fought with the South Wales Borderers in the Crimea and James Angus had served with the Grenadier Guards in the Boer War. In 1914 he joined the 16th Cardiff City Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he was Acting Commander of the 11th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers when he died, tragically, in a swimming accident in September 1917.

The verse also deals with events on the home front, commending the men, like Morris, who had to stay in Wales but, nevertheless, were doing ‘their bit’ to win the war. In addition, there is a lengthy tribute to the Chief Constable, Capt Lionel Lindsay, for his leadership during the war years. Lindsay had first joined the Constabulary as a Superintendent in Merthyr in 1889. He succeeded his father, Henry Gore Lindsay, as Chief Constable in 1891 and held the post until 1937.

The poem ends on a fairly sombre note, telling the story of the thousands of women who dreaded the arrival of the post each day in case it brought news of the death of a loved one. Delivery of such letters and telegrams would have been a familiar occurrence in local communities across Wales. No doubt Caleb Morris would have feared for the life of his only son, David, who was in the Merchant Navy. David was an officer on ships owned by W J Tatem and Co of Cardiff.  As far as we know, he survived the war but not without a number of scares. In May 1918 the Aberdare Leader carried details of his return from India on the SS Madras. The convoy had been attacked on both the outward and return journeys by German submarines and had lost six ships. It was reported that … one torpedo missed the bow of Sec Officer Morris’ ship by only a yard or two and struck the next ship which was alongside.… [Aberdare Leader, 18 May 1918].

Copies of Caleb Morris’ tribute were printed by the Western Mail and sold at 3d a copy. They were enormously popular and, in June 1918, it was reported that £67 11s had been raised, suggesting that over 5400 copies had been sold. The proceeds were passed to the Welsh Prisoners of War Fund. Caleb Morris served in the Glamorgan Constabulary for 26 years and retired in March 1920 aged 50.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

 

A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary

Respectfully dedicated to Captain Lionel Lindsay, MVO, Chief Constable

I’ll sing a song of heroes true,

Known to you as ‘Men in blue’.

The gallant members of the Force

Are never wanting in resource;

When Britain’s sword flashed in the light

For Belgium’s liberty and right,

The brave Glamorgans honour bound

Exchanged their beats for battle ground.

Four hundred men as true as steel

Knew how to march with toe and heel;

They knew their rifle and their drill,

A dauntless band with iron will.

These men that would not break or yield

Could now command upon the field.

A smarter lot of army men

Was never known to human ken.

They hailed from Porth and Mountain Ash,

That ‘Scrap of Paper’ made them rash.

They left Bridgend and Aberdare,

Took up their guns and did their share;

From Briton Ferry jovial Ben

Rejoined his unit there and then:

And now a captive with the Hun,

May God be with him when alone.

From Port Talbot, Pentre, Barry,

On their journey did not tarry.

Every Hamlet, Town and Village

Were responsive to the Message.

Men from all the Shire’s divisions

Joined the battle of the Nations.

A spirit moved within each breast

That hurried them to do their best.

With solemn vow and eager heart,

Determined all to play their part.

Never yet had they been thwarted

In a venture once ‘twas started.

Ere the middle of September

Many crossed the Straits of Dover;

Forward march through France and Flanders,

Till they met the Goosestep dancers,

‘Got in Himmel Donner Wetter’,

Blood was running there like water.

The BEF with wounded arm

Gave Kaiser William the alarm,

His dreams of Paris and Calais

Evaporated on that day.

 

The soldiers said, and still repeat,

That Angels fought in that retreat.

Like lightening flash or human thought

A modern miracle was wrought;

The British caused a German rout;

Attila’s millions turned about.

The Huns retreated to the Aisne,

A sorry plight for men so vain.

Many a policeman’s blood was shed,

And some were numbered with the dead.

Among the men who crossed the foam

To fight for Country, King and Home,

Was Colonel Smith of football fame,

To-day he plays the sterner game:

Fred was mentioned in despatches,

How he fought the cruel Bosches;

His clever tactics foiled the foe,

His merit won the DSO

May further honour be in store

‘Till Smith commands the Army Corps.

 

Another star looms on the view,

A credit to the Men in Blue;

Brave Colonel Angus made a stand

That brought distinction and command;

A Grenadier to the core,

He won his spurs against the Boer.

As true a man as wore a sword

Or stood before the German Horde,

But sad to me ‘tis to relate

How Angus met his mournful fate;

For when he was with honour crowned

A message came that he was drowned.

For acumen and gallantry

His name will long remembered be.

 

Another hero, strong and tall,

A master with the gloves and ball,

A football player lithe and bold,

An International of old.

He won his cap for strength and dash-

I mean Dick Thomas, Mountain Ash;

As Sergeant Major at the Front

Was in the van, as e’er his wont.

Poor Dick is numbered with the slain,

And buried on a foreign plain;

He met his death with smiling face,

‘Twas worthy of a gallant race.

 

And Corporal Jones of Cynon Town,

Who joined the Guards and won renown;

A man of truly valiant worth,

A giant he, in length and girth;

He won a medal for his pluck,

But lost a limb, what bitter luck.

Poor Jim will never march again

To music of a martial strain.

 

Could I but weave as Poets can,

I’d sing a song to very man.

All deserve their names to glitter

On a shield in gold and silver;

One and all without exception

Are worthy of the British Nation.

Many a gallant deed was done,

The twentieth part will ne’er be sung.

Behind the lines the crosses tell

How brave Glamorgans nobly fell.

Many are to-day for valour

Numbered on the Scroll of Honour;

For ‘Robert’s’ always in the van,

A soldier, constable and man.

 

Three hundred men were left at home,

They could not sail across the foam.

The DSO and DCM

Will ne’er be won by one of them.

They too deserve a word of praise

For arduous work in anxious days,

Willing service to the Country

Yet may win a star or bounty.

Their patience, tact and courtesy

Disclose inherent chivalry.

 

Our gallant Chief, and friend in need,

To all of us a friend indeed;

The martial mien his Giants bear,

A triumph to his special care.

Every man a Drill Instructor-

Aye, and ready for the Sector.

There’s not a Force throughout the Realm

With better Captain at the helm.

His ancient lineage, gentle birth,

Add lustre to intrinsic worth.

A Chieftain he whose loyalty

Was honoured by our Royalty.

The deeds he’s done since war began

Are worthy of the Lindsay Clan.

A valiant Chief of noble heart,

To King and Country plays his part;

And when his men return again

They will not seek his aid in vain.

His name will ever revered be

For honour and fidelity.

 

Another Gentleman we know,

Brave Colonel Williams, DSO.

A man respected in the Shire,

Descendent of a noble sire;

Grandson and a worthy scion

To ‘Alaw Goch’ of Ynyscynon.

He early won his King’s reward

As Captain of the Celtic Guard;

Before this War the Welshmen had

To wear Grenade of Gaelic pla’d,

His love of Wales and his Nation

Brought to pass the Welch Battalion.

(Ye Giant Welshman, service seek,

‘Cymru am Byth’, go! Don the leek;

When a Teuton you encounter

Make him eat the leek for dinner;

Treat him as the bold Glendower

Treated Pistil for his bluster.)

When War is o’er and Peace shall reign

May he come back to Wales again,

For Wales can ill afford to lose

The man that won that Cross at Loos.

 

I’d love to touch a finer chord,

If but the Muse with my accord,

For now I tread on holy ground

Where the bereaved are to be found.

Ye women brave, whose hearts have bled

For husbands, sons and lovers dead;

Yon brave Soldier-sons of Gwalia

Sleepeth in that Grand Valhalla.

My inmost soul with pain is strung,

I can’t express with human tongue,

The pain and sorrow that is wrought:

Though glory won, ‘tis dearly bought.

There’s not a herb, however good,

That ever has or ever could,

Or great physician’s healing art,

Can heal the wounds of broken heart;

There’s only One, the Lord above,

That knows the depth of woman’s love.

All through the watches of the night

They never sleep till morning light.

They watch the postman from afar,

The door is left upon the jar.

The mother peeps behind the blind

And prays that fate at last is kind.

The Postman passes with a will,

The Mother’s heart is standing still.

Sometimes the truth is grim and hard:

Her boy lay buried  in the sward.

O what is sorrow? Who can tell?

‘Tis only them that love too well.

The anguish, pain and poignant grief

Beyond the conception and belief.

God of Mercy, stretch forth Thy palm

And give Thy children healing balm.

Caleb Morris, PS 175. Abernant, Aberdare