Sergeant Major John Morgan 1775-1852. The United Kingdom’s longest serving soldier.

Sergeant Major John Morgan 1775 – 1852. The United Kingdom’s longest serving member of the Armed Forces.

John Morgan’s memorial before restoration

John Morgan was born in Machynlleth in 1775. Little is known of his family at that time, though on setting up a small business in Carmarthen’s Priory Street, selling groceries and brewing beer in the 1780’s, his family became well known in the town and very wealthy as a result. When the Thomas & Elizabeth Mayhook Charity began the restoration of his family memorial we could never imagine what we were about to reveal and what condition the memorial would be in. Indeed at the outset, we did not even know to whom the memorial commemorated- if anyone.
For several months we began the painstaking removal of the Ivy that had wrapped itself around the limestone memorial to such an extent that it had formed itself into a kind of tree of it’s own as can be seen in the accompanying photographs.

The memorial during restoration.

Gradually though, after sawing, cutting, pulling, and praying that nothing would fall off we gradually revealed the secret that lay beneath this enormous memorial – a huge and very impressive solid earn of limestone. Over 50 years of growth had finally been removed, and though there is some structural damage to some of the memorial, it is damage that can with care be repaired. It was decided however, to leave some of the old ivy growth around the base of the Urn at the top of the memorial to prevent the Urn from toppling over in the event of any weakness.

The solid limestone Urn atop the memorial is revealed.

The memorial commemorates eight members of the Morgan family and in particular SERGEANT MAJOR JOHN MORGAN OF THE ROYAL CARMARTHENSHIRE FUSILEERS REGIMENT OF MILITIA, who died on June 6th 1857, aged 82. What is most remarkable about John Morgan is the fact that he served in the Carmarthenshire Militia for a total of 56 years and 92 days of unbroken service which as far as I know a record that is unsurpassed in British military history.

The memorial as it looks today including the ball on top of the urn which was found 100 metres away in the ground.

His record of service is as follows:-

Enlisted at Welshpool on the 15th May 1796 as Private aged 26
Promoted Corporal 25th March 1798
Promoted Sergeant 21st September 1798
Promoted Quarter Master Sergeant September 1808
Promoted Sergeant Major 25th May 1809 and continued in that post for 43 years until retirement in September 1852 aged 76 !!
Total length of service 56 years and 92 days

Now that’s what you call long service. From the French Invasion of Fishguard in 1797 to which John marched as a 26 year old Private with his 17 year old friend William Nott (later to become Major General Sir William Nott GCB) to the Napoleonic Wars and battle of Toulouse in April 1814, as part of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Medal and clasp) John Morgan served his country well beyond that expected of him until his retirement in 1852.

One of the limestone panels with details of John Morgan and his wife. Three other panels are also inscribed with other members of the family

 

 

In 1857 he was laid to rest here in St David’s Cemetery with no ceremonial and only a small obituary notice in the local press. However, he does have the most impressive memorial which serves as a reminder of his past achievements. Being smothered in Ivy and bramble for over 50 years, his story can once again be told. May he rest in peace.

 

 

The discharge certificate of Sergeant Major John Morgan
Oil painting on canvas, Colonel George Rice-Trevor. A full-length seated portrait of the 3rd Baron Dynevor, in uniform of Colonel of the Carmarthenshire Militia. Copyright by kind permission of the National Trust.
Rare Brass Shako Plate, attached to the headdress of the Carmarthenshire Militia