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Bible unites wartime sweethearts' families

Date

Peter Jean

John Morgan and Darryl Johnston look at a bible that belonged to John's great uncle who was engaged to Darryl's great aunt.

John Morgan and Darryl Johnston look at a bible that belonged to John's great uncle who was engaged to Darryl's great aunt. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

After more than 90 years in the care of his sweetheart and then her family, Remembrance Day seemed the right time for a pocket-sized Bible to be returned to the family of Private David Morgan.

Private Morgan died in 1918 with the Bible containing a photograph of his fiance Nessie Bessell in his pocket. In 1916, 22-year-olds David, of Hurstville in Sydney, and Nessie, of Carlton, fell in love and decided to marry.

But David's father Thomas, a strict Baptist, objected to the match because Nessie did not belong to the same Christian denomination.

Private David Morgan, who was killed in France in 1918.

Private David Morgan, who was killed in France in 1918.

David, who insisted the marriage would go ahead, meanwhile enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as an engineer in September 1916, promising Nessie that he would return from the war with enough money to marry and buy a house.

On November 3, 1916, he left Sydney for England taking with him a small Bible given to him by his father in 1914 into which was slipped a photo of Nessie.

David was sent to the Somme and regularly sent Nessie long letters, photos and postcards. But on April 27, 1918, he was shot in the head and died the following day.

A bible that belonged to David Morgan who was killed in World War I.

A bible that belonged to David Morgan who was killed in World War I. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

He was buried in the British Cemetery near Halloy-les-Pernois and was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Despite having opposed their engagement, Thomas Morgan gave Nessie the Bible and a small matchbox David had carried into battle. Nessie later married another World War I veteran, Christopher Thompson, with whom she had two sons. But her great nephew Darryl Johnston said his aunt never really recovered from losing David and, the Bible, matchbox and other items remained treasured keepsakes.

Several years ago Mr Johnston, of Chisholm, tracked down members of the Morgan family in Heathcote in Sydney. He returned the matchbox and, on Sunday, after the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial, gave the Bible to David's great nephew, John Morgan.

''It's back with the Morgan family where it started. It's been full circle,'' Mr Johnston said. John Morgan, who grew up knowing little about his great uncle David, said the Bible was a treasured item and would be passed down to the next generation.

''It will go in the china cabinet and it will be kept in the family,'' he said.

The tragic love story of David and Nessie, will ensure the Morgans and the Johnstons always have a special bond.

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