Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 2nd Bn.
IV. B. 14.
Morris or the Yiddish version Moishe (pronounced Moysha) as he was called by his family was born on Valentine’s Day, the 14th February, 1924. As was typical at the time, he was born at his home at 30 Hare Street, Bethnal Green in the East End of London.
Morris was one of 11 children. He was the 7th son and 8th child of Soloman and Fanny Finegold. His parents had 2 more boys after him and a little girl named Pearl who was born in 1927, but sadly died of Scarlet Fever in October 1931 when she was only 4 years old. At this time the disease was tragically common and mainly effected children between 2 and 8 years of age. It must have been hard for the 7 year old Morris to understand this sad loss.
His parents were Russian emigrants who fled the Russian pogroms in the early 1900’s and settled in the East End of London. They came from Zinkor which at the time was part of the Russian Empire but today is in Ukraine. The 1897 Census records Zinkor as an important Jewish centre with 3,719 Jews which was about 53% of the population of the Town.
Family rumour suggests that his parents met on the boat coming to England. They settled in the Jewish East London area and were married on the 1st April 1906 in the East London Synagogue in the Mile End district in the East End of London. Soloman was 25 years of age and his wife Fanny Weiner was 21 years. He was a Tailor’s presser and she was a Dressmaker. At the time of their marriage, they were both living at 13 Corbett’s Court in Spitalfields in a Jewish area of East London. It was a narrow street of small houses. They then moved to 3 Davis Avenue, Hunt Street, Mile End area of East London before moving by 1911, to a 2 room apartment in Hare Street (later called Cheshire Street).
In 1918 at the age of about 37 years his father enlisted with the Royal Fusiliers to fight in the 1WW. He was sent to Alexandria and finally demobbed late in 1919. His Army records show he was a very small man of 5’ 3” height (1.60 metres) and weighed 121 lbs. His sons all towered over him. However, he was described as Medically A1 with a good physical development. His wife was left with 6 children to bring up on her own, whilst he was on active service.
Morris’s father was a Tailor’s Presser by profession. He ironed ladies clothing for Tailors using very large heavy irons which had to be continually heated on a hot stove. The handle was shaped like the neck of goose and so these irons were called a “Tailor’s Goose”.
The 1921 UK Census shows that Soloman was out of work at the time so life must have been hard as they had 6 children aged from 13 years to 5 years of age and were living in the 2 rooms in Hare Street which were above a Greengrocers shop.
The Census was intended to show who was living at any particular address on the night of the 19th June. Curiously, although Soloman and Fanny are recorded on the Census form, only 2 children are given as living with them that night. These were the eldest boy Barnett aged nearly 14 years and the only girl, Millie aged 7 years. Where were the other 4 children sleeping at night? The Greengrocers shop was owned by a Mrs Rachel Rosen who had l child aged 21 years, so possibly some of the children spent the nights downstairs? However, this is mere speculation. When Morris was born in 1924 the premises must have been very overcrowded.
His parents’ Marriage certificate gives his mother’s father as Morris Weiner. He was a Bootmaker. He must have died shortly prior to Morris’s birth in 1924 and the baby Morris would have been named after his maternal Grandfather. In the Jewish religion a baby is not named after a living person.
He was said to be a quiet boy with the dark curly black locks and dark brown eyes of his father and most of his brothers. He was particularly close to his brother Hymie (Hyman) who was nearest in age to him and only 2 years older, and the favourite brother of Mannie, the very youngest child, born later in 1931.
By the outbreak of the second World War in 1939 the family were still living in the same 2 rooms in Cheshire Street. The 2 eldest boys had married and moved out and the 2 youngest, Sidney and Mannie were evacuated out of London to live in the countryside away from London and the inevitable bombing. In the 1939 UK Register of occupants only 4 children and Morris were still living at home. Sidney aged 10 hated being away and soon moved back home but Mannie aged 8 years went to live with an elderly couple who couldn’t have children and treated him like their son and he loved living with them so much that he stayed until the very end of the War, 6 years later, and it took much persuading for him to move back home.
At the outbreak of the War, Soloman was employed, as were the grown up children who were still living at home, so life must have been financially much easier. This may have been the reason for the move in 1943 to Stepney into a house on the corner of Ensign Street and The Highway. The address was 11 The Highway and may have been more spacious, although it still had the ubiquitous East End facility of an outside Toilet.
It was from 11 The Highway that 2 of the brothers enlisted into the Royal East Kent Regiment (the Buffs) and were soon sent to the Middle East to fight. Morris followed their example, when he was called up in 1943. At that time there was a danger that coal would be in short supply as miners were called up to fight abroad. Coal was essential for war production. This led to Ernest Bevin who was Minister for Labour at the time, realising that some conscripted young men could be employed down the mines instead of serving at the Front. These recruits were known as Bevin Boys. Morris had the opportunity to become one of these Boys, but his mother feared that the work was too dangerous, so like his father and brothers before him he enlisted with the Army and the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as Private Morris Finegold Service Number 14513808.
The one and only surviving photo of him shows him proudly dressed in his new army uniform. He looks very young and with a rather slight build. The cuffs of his uniform are folded up giving the suggestion of his perhaps being of short stature. The family resemblance is very strong and in particular to his brother Mannie and Stephen, Mannie’s son.
The photo was given to Betty, his future Sister in Law who married his brother Hymie. After their deaths it went into an album of photos inherited by their daughter, Denise. And there the photo remained, undiscovered for decades until the sad death of Hymie’s brother Sidney in March 2022 encouraged family members to hunt out old photos to bring to his funeral. This only surviving photo of Morris was found in a long forgotten album of family photos.
Shortly after this photo was taken, Morris was sent abroad to take part in the Western Europe Campaign where on the 13th October, 1944 he was tragically mortally wounded in action at the Battle of Overloon in Holland. He was just 20 years of age.
The desperately sad news was passed to his family who had to go through all the dreadful formalities and mourning. Probate was granted on 13th December 1944 with the sad sentence “Died on War Service”. He left effects to the sum of £310 0s 5d which would be equivalent to approximately £11,020 today or 13,250 Euros, a not inconsiderable amount for a young man of 20 years. But, more than that he left a grieving family that always remembered him. His youngest Brother, now aged 90, is the only surviving sibling and still has loving memories of him to this day.
He was originally buried at Passveld in Holland but then re-interred in the purpose built Cemetery at Overloon on the 28th May 1947. The tranquil and wooded surroundings and the care taken by the Dutch of the cemetery ensure that the graves are always beautifully maintained and those young men that gave their lives so others may live, are not forgotten.
In keeping with the Jewish tradition, as I was the next child to be born, and just as Morris was named after his deceased Grandfather Morris, so I was named Maureen after my young Uncle Morris.
The Dutch Government in gratitude to the war effort, paid for the closest relatives of those buried at Overloon to visit the graves and to be put up in the Homes of Dutch families. My parents and various brothers took the gracious opportunity to visit Morris’s grave and a firm friendship was established between our families and our kind Dutch hosts. I remember the Dutch family my parents stayed with coming over to England to stay with my parents. On their journey back to Holland via Dover, they picked up a large stone and carried it back to Morris’s grave in Overloon for him to have a memory of England. This was in keeping with tradition of Jewish people who visit graves and then leave a stone on the grave in memory of the deceased.
In more recent times various nieces and nephews including myself have visited Overloon to pay our respects. In addition, my husband and I have wonderful friends Erna and Kees Tekke from Oosterhout in Holland who visit the grave from time to time on our behalf and who have now officially “Adopted” his grave.
The Battle of Overloon has been referred to as “The Forgotten Battle” but the organisers and volunteers at the Cemetery will make sure that information about those buried will, wherever possible, be researched and recorded so that the Battle and the memory of the brave Servicemen in the Cemetery graves will never be forgotten.
Lesley Edwards (Nee Maureen Finegold). April, 2022. Cheshire, England.
Lesley Edwards (nee Maureen Finegold)
Kvk nummer: 83346422
Banknummer: NL04 RBRB 8835 3869 69
t.n.v. Stichting Overloon War Chronicles