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How The Battle Of The Somme Made Kitty Morter A War Widow

Kitty Morter was widowed when her husband was killed on the Somme, less than a fortnight after the battle began. His death left her alone to face the birth of their child three months later.

Kitty worked in a mill near Droylsden, Manchester. On 20 December 1913, aged 19, she married a painter called Percy Morter. Some weeks after war broke out, in the autumn of 1914, Percy was persuaded to enlist by the music hall star, Vesta Tilley, during an evening at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. Kitty didn't want him to join the Army, but he persuaded her 'that it was all for the best'. He joined the 9th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. As part of the 25th Division, the battalion embarked for France in September 1915.

With Percy gone, Kitty went to live with her mother and got a new job in Audenshaw, Manchester.  Early in 1916, Percy came home on leave. Before he returned to France, Percy told a friend that he feared he would never come back.

Soon afterwards Kitty realised she was pregnant. She worked until the middle of July. On the day after she stopped, she heard that Percy had been killed in the Battle of the Somme. On 7 July, the 9th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment had attacked two positions immediately to the northeast of La Boisselle, beside the Albert-Bapaume road. Percy's body was never found. His name is now on the Thiepval Memorial.

On 19 October 1916 Kitty and Percy's son was born. He was named Percy Edward after his father. In 1964, having married again, Kitty Eckersley spoke to the BBC and explained that she could not 'remember the baby being born, and I felt I didn't want to live. I'd no wish to live at all because the world had come to an end then, for me, because I'd lost all that I'd loved.'

Listen to Kitty Morter speaking about her husband and the impact of war in Voices of the First World War Podcast 49: A Total War and Podcast 50: Legacy.