Frederick Ernest MORRISS
Known as Fred
Serial Number: NZ414813
RNZAF Trade: Flight Rigger
Date of Enlistment: August 1941
Rank Achieved: Leading Aircraftman
Flying Hours: unknown if any
Operational Sorties: nil known
Service Details: Some inital newspaper reports stated that Fred Morriss was called up to Levin in August 1941 to train as an Air Gunner, but other reports (such as in the Auckland Star) in fact say he was to train at Harewood as a Flight Rigger, and the latter reports were correct.
Following training at he Christchurch base Fred served on the ground staff of No. 3 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron also at Harewood and later Whenuapai, and was among the first groundcrew members to go with the squadron to the Pacific war zone. He served at least at Espiritu Santo and then Guadalcanal with the squadron. More details are not yet known about subsequent postings but it's probable he transferred to No. 12 Servicing Unit which formed from the No. 3 (GR) Squadron groundcrew.
It has been stated that Fred, who was well known for his innovative inventions over the years, was actually the inventor of the famous Cactus Stove. This was a stove for cooking, boiling water and boiling clothes to wash them, and was built from old tins and drums in the ultimate in recycling. Many hundreds of versions were developed by kiwi airmen and soldiers (and probably other nationalities who copied too) during the 1942-45 period in the Pacific but it is said by other veterans who knew him that Fred invented the first actual Cactus Stove very early in the piece when the squadron arrived at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal (known as the code name Cactus). Confirmation of this claim to fame would be appreciated.
Date of Birth: 1907? at Otahuhu, Auckland
Personal Details: Fred was the son of John and Ethel Morriss, one of four children. Born at Otahuhu, Fred moved to Cambridge as a child when his parents went farming at Hautapu. He attended Hautapu School, and then Cambridge District High School.
On leaving school Fred became an apprenticed carpenter at Moore and Hardy Ltd. in Cambridge (which later became known as M.L.M. Ltd.). Fred developed a keen enthusiasm for motorcycle racing, and imported a Brough motorbike from England. he was a member of the Hamilton Motorcycle Club and won numerous trophies in competitions. He was also a founding member of the Cambridge Camera Club in the 1950's, serving continuously on the committee of the club till the end of his life, and also being the club's patron. He had a sense of adventure and lead many photography expedition parties to wild places around the world.
Fred had learned to play the piano by ear and was in high demand as an entertainer in the town, especially with the Senior Citizens club old time dances. He was also a poet and article writer.
He volunteered for service in the RNZAF during World War Two, and after thw war Fred returned to Cambridge where he became an odd-job man. At the time of his death, fellow RNZAF veteran Norm Todd, who had served with Fred in No. 3 (GR) Squadron and knew him well for the rest of Fred's life, was quoted in Fred's obituary as saying, "He was a man of many parts and achievements and there seemed to be nothing he couldn't fix."
He lived in a large cobb house next to St Andrew's Anglican Church on Hamilton Road (now no longer there and the sire of the Ford Dealership now). His front yard was strewn with full sized animal statues that he had created and it's said that "Mr Morriss's Zoo" was very popular with Cambridge's children for decades through the 1940's-1970's. It even spawned a postcard for tourists
On the 15th of June 1987, Fred was going into town. He stepped out of his car in Alpha Street, Cambridge, and collapsed. He was taken to Waikato Hospital and passed away there the following day. His funeral was held at the Cambridge Baptist Church. Fred never married.
Details of Death: Died 16th of June 1987 aged 80 years
Buried at: Hautapu Cemetery , Cambridge (RSA Cemetery Plot: 133B)
Connection with Cambridge: Fred lived at Hautapu, Cambridge, before the war and continued to live in the town after the war until his death