John Moore MORRIS
Known as "Jack"
Serial Number: NZ422424
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 1942
Rank Achieved: Flight Lieutenant
Operational Sorties: 16 Ops
Date of Birth: 1st of July 1923, in Cambridge
Personal Details: Born in Cambridge, Jack was the son of Mr and Mrs JL Morris. He attended Cambridge District High School. Jack says. "I went to school in Cambridge, and then I went and worked for the State Advances Corporation in Hamilton. I was a cadet, doing valuation and that sort of thing. Jack's sister Margaret Morris was a WAAF in the Air Force within New Zealand, and his elder brother Trevor Morris was an Air Gunner, and later a Pilot in the RNZAF.
Service Details: Jack's earliest brush with an aeroplane came before the war when he was still a school kid. He says, "I was up there where the Rugby Club is nowadays just by the racecourse, and an aeroplane came around. I was only a small kid. And it landed in the paddock there - a big paddock, it was. And a joker got out, and I went and stood respectfully, and he said 'If you keep your eye on this aeroplane, I'll take you for a ride.' And off he went. And that was a fellow called 'Mac' MacGregor. And where he went to, God knows. But anyway, he eventually came back. And I'd kept the cows from chewing the wings off the thing and what-not. And the bugger got in and took off and never gave me the ride!"
"So I was always rather sceptical of what Air Force people said," he laughs. "But I must say, from that point on when I joined, I really thought it was great."
Upon volunteering for the RNZAF, which Jack thinks from memory he did in Hamilton, preparations began immediately. He was attested on the 26th of August 1941 upon volunteering, and he says, "When we joined up, we were signed up into some sort of Reserve, I suppose. And, you know, we didn't get issued uniform or anything, but we were excused all kinds of military service in that status. And we had our medical exams, and we had to go to night school." This night school involved classes in mathematics, navigation and all sorts of other useful lessons that would take the pressure off the RNZAF training schools later once the airmen actually went into the Air Force properly. Later in the war the Air Training Corps fulfilled the same role of preparing and educating boys before they entered the RNZAF.
He remembers an unpleasant part of joining up for many airmen; "A lot of us had some sort of medical problem that had to be remedied before we could go. I was recently talking to a specialist, and pointed out to him that a lot of our boys had an operation that involved having their nose reamed out. It was a most unpleasant thing! They sort of put a brace and bit up your nose, or something, and ground away for a while and then, stuffed a whole lot of tape up, and left it like that for a while. And eventually the tape was pulled out, which was not a very pleasant exercise. But a lot of fellows had that done, because in those days in most schools there was boxing. And practically everyone had a broken nose. I fortunately didn't have that, but I had to have my tonsils out, in the Waikato Hospital, and that wasn't much fun as an adult. But it's quite amazing how we all adapted ourselves to these things."
"And then from there we were eventually called up." This however was not till after several months had elapsed, and Jack actually enlisted into the Royal New Zealand Air Force on the 27th of March 1942. He was given the rank of Aircraftman Class One (AC1).
Though destined to be a pilot, it wasn't straight into flying training for Jack. He recalls, "I went down to Rongotai first and was kitted out, and that sort of thing, and then was sent to Hobsonville." He arrived at Hobsonville to join the Assembly Flight on the 1st of April 1942. "A group of us who had done the pre-entry pilot training - you know, a bit of meteorology and navigation and that sort of thing at night school - worked on the assembly line, putting Kittyhawks and Hudsons together." During this period Jack was given the trade classification of Aircraft Hand - General Duties (or ACH GD).
After three months of this interesting work, Jack was posted to the Initial Training Wing (ITW) at RNZAF Rotorua. He arrived there on the
28th of July 1942 to commence the eight week course, now classified with the trade description of APUT, or Airman Pilot Under Training, with the rank of Leading Aircraftman (LAC).
At ITW Jack learned the ins and outs of military life, such as drill, shooting and Military Law, etc. ITW was the typical boot camp style introduction to the military, with an emphasis on bashing the drill square by day, and usually classes in maths or navigation by night. "We were taught to left-right-left down there," Jack says.
And then on the 4th of September 1942 it was onto No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at RNZAF Bell Block near New Plymouth, where Jack became a member of Course 33. He was finally to receive his flying training over a year after he'd initially volunteered.
At No. 2 EFTS he began flying the Tiger Moth. He says of that initial training period, "I read when I was a kid that people who were accomplished horsemen, tended to make good pilots. They found this in the First World War apparently. And if, it was said, that you had good hands, you had the makings to be a good pilot. And people had said that I had good hands, so I thought 'My God, this is for me.' And in fact I was lucky. I was the first one in our course to go solo, and I did pretty well on the flying business."
Jack recalls his flying instructor, Jim Bettridge. "I was lucky to have a very good instructor, and he, as a reward for doing well, he took me up one day in the Tiger Moth, and we tried to fly over the top of Mount Egmont. It so happens that the ceiling of a Tiger Moth with two men in it is just slightly less than the height of Mount Taranaki.* So we couldn't get over. We struggled around her several times and couldn't quite make it. Eventually we went around on the windward side, and we just got over. And he turned it over on its back - turned the aeroplane over on its back - and we went down the other side of the mountain upside down! And of course very soon, the Tiger Moth has got a gravity feed [for the fuel] and the engine stopped! And I, by this time, was in the process of learning a lesson. Because I hadn't done my straps up very tight. I was hanging out in the slipstream, upside down. And from the petrol tank, which in the Tiger Moth is on the upper wing - and it's got a breather hole at the top, and of course when it's upside-down the petrol comes out. And petrol was flowing into my face, and this joker's looking in the mirror and saying, 'Have you had enough?!' So it became a case of determination, so I said 'No!', and we kept on going down. I knew bloody well that he'd have to give in himself after a while, because he'd have to get the engine started again. So down we went, and finally he did turn it over. We were both pretty relieved when the damn thing started, the engine, again! That's about the top of my excitement."
*Mount Taranaki and Mount Egmont are that same mountain, the former is it's Maori name which is today more commonly used.
Following elementary training, spent final leave in Cambridge, during which he was given an official Farewell from the Cambridge Patriotic Committee. "I remember that well, I was as embarrassed as one thing!" He does not recall whether any other Cambridge airmen were being farewelled at the same time, but he says, "I know it was a terrible ordeal, and yet the sort of thing that you appreciated."
Jack then embarked onboard the Mauritania on the 24th of December 1942, which was headed for San Francisco. After crossing the Pacific and arriving in the USA, he and his fellow course members went on up to Canada. They eventually arrived at the intended destination of No. 6 SFTS at Dunnville, on Lake Ontario. Here he continued training on North American Harvards with his first Canadian flight taking place on the 9th of February 1943.
He was on track to become a fighter pilot, flying the single engined advanced trainers, but "I got pretty close to it [becoming a fighter pilot], but unfortunately just before I got my Wings, I also got the mumps. And I was held up in hospital in Canada. And the blokes in my course who didn't get mumps, they all went off, and all went onto Spits. I just missed."
Those Wings, denoting his successfully passing flying training, were pinned on him on the 25th of June 1943, and he was also commissioned with the rank of Pilot Officer, having been among the top-third graduates of his course.
On the 16th of July 1943 Pilot Officer Morris embarked on the 'Louis Pasteur' at Halifax and set off for Greenock, and then on to Brighton in the south of England.
On arrival at Brighton where all newly arrived RNZAF airmen were sent to await orders and distribution to an Operational Training Unit. From here, Jack recalls he did, "Various admin and Ground Training activities."
One of these activities was fairly interesting, " I went down and did a sort of a Commando course in Devon. Playing soldiers, and being toughened up." This may sound unusual for Air Force, but Jack says he believes that quite a lot of airmen did this course. "It was really filling in I suppose, because of the flying training, but I was there for several weeks."
"I had hoped to be a fighter pilot you see, and I'd trained on Harvards. But when we arrived in Britain they were losing fifty and sixty bombers a night. So a whole lot of us were told, 'Ok, you're going to be bomber pilots. To hell with this business of playing at fighter pilots.' So we were sent to fly Oxfords, with twin engines. That was a place called Church Lawford, at Rugby. It was for quite a while, ten weeks I suppose, perhaps even longer."
Due to those mumps in Canada, he'd arrived just too late to fulfill his ambition of flying fighters. On the 6th of October 1943 he began his multi-engine conversion course at Church Lawford,
On completing this course successfully , Jack joined No. 16 Operational Training Unit for the final phases of training. He says, "I then went to Upper Heyford, which was an old RAF station, where I flew Wellingtons. That was an O.T.U. I got a crew there." The crew included the three other Kiwis; Pilot Officer J.S. Wilkinson (Navigator), Pilot Officer B.C. Baker (Bomb Aimer), and Pilot Officer J. Elliotte (the Wireless Operator).
In March 1944 they were posted to Chipping Warden, and by the 15th of June Jack and the crew had progressed to larger aircraft. "I went to a conversion unit and flew Stirlings. That was near Newmarket in Cambridgeshire, at Wratting Common." This was No. 1651 Conversion Unit.
By the 23rd of July they had mastered the Stirling four engined bomber, and the last course was type conversion onto the RAF's latest and most popular bomber aircraft, the Lancaster. They did just a few days at No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School, based at RAF Feltwell. John says Feltwell itself "was quite famous because all the special forces operations were done from there."
At the finishing school they completed a three + hour cross-country on the 26th of July, and were then sent to join No. 75 (NZ) Squadron at RAF Mepal.
Jack had a very rude introduction to operational flying. He recalls, "I arrived at 75 Squadron, and straight away we were sent off on what they called a 'Second Dickie' trip, with another crew, with an experienced crew."
Second Dickie meant second pilot, or co-pilot. It was standard practice for new pilots to fly with an experienced crew for a couple of trips to get the feel of flying in combat over Europe before taking charge of their own plane and crew. Jack was attached to a crew consisting of the following Kiwis; Flight Lieutenant Noel Stokes (Captain), Flying Officer G.H. Sanders (Navigator), Flight Sergeant N.T. Sampson (Air Bomber), Flight Sergeant W.G. Raynel (Wireless Operator)and Flight Sergeant M.R.P. Drummond(Mid-Upper Gunner) . The only non-New Zealander in the crew was Sgt R. Meanly, the Flight Engineer.
They were to undertake an operation to Stuttgart on the 28th of July 1943. But their Avro Lancaster Mk1 bomber (coded NE148), in which Jack made his first trip into enemy territory, didn't get very far.
"We were shot down near Chartres on the way to the target. Stokes and the rear gunner were killed but the rest of us evaded capture and in due course returned to England."
Jack says of this introduction to a combat squadron, "I didn't even get time to unpack my bags." As Jack says, two of the crew, Noel Alfred Deal Stokes and Norman Vaughn Wilding were sadly killed.
Was the reality that he was having to parachute out into the darkness over hostile territory terrifying? "Oh, absolutely. There was no problem at all doing it, because the idea of being cooked gives you a little bit of inclination to go."
Jack spent about six weeks "prancing around in France" as he puts it, on the run, evading the Germans, before he eventually managed to meet the advancing American army and making it into the safety of the Allied lines.They transported him across the Channel back to England.
As well as Jack's fortunate return to safety, the rest of the Lancaster crew who'd survived being shot down, Sanders,Sampson Raynel, Meanly and Drummond also all successfully managed to evade capture by the enemy and make it back to Allied lines.
Along the way Jack had enjoyed the help of many French people while on the run. "Oh yes, the people were very good to me in France, and a family that really looked after me and took great risks on my behalf, the man was the head of the Maquis there around Orleans. And they were great. I've maintained a great relationship with them, and my family have all been over there."
"I tried to get a medal for the lady that really was very good to me, but I was unsuccessful in that, but for instance, this was a young married woman with two kids. If she'd been caught, she'd have been shot. And yet she took me one day on a bike, a riding bike, and suddenly we came around the corner and here were a whole lot of German soldiers on the road. Well, she was wonderful. What she did was she fell off her bike deliberately. And of course all the soldiers rushed to look after her. Nobody took any notice of me, so I just kept going. Now that's the sort of thing that people did, you know. She was in really grave peril. They wouldn't have shot me, they'd have kept me, but she'd have been a goner."
"On the 13th of October I was back at Wratting Common gathering a new crew."
Remember that Jack had been a guest on the crew he'd been shot down with. He had left his own crew back in England when he went on that fateful flight. However, during his absence fate struck them too. "My first crew had been given a new pilot but they were soon shot down. The navigator evaded capture and elected to rejoin me."
With his old navigator and some new faces, Jack soon had a new team under him. "My new crew included the following Kiwis; F/O J.S. Wilkinson, F/Sgts J.A. Taylor, J. Creevey and Sgt E.C. Temperton."
On the13th of November 1944 they were at RAF Feltwell resuming Lancaster flying, and on the 25th they were posted to No. 15 Squadron at RAF Mildenhall.
"When I arrived there, the first thing they said to me was, 'Hello Morris. You're a very experienced pilot. We'll send you on a trip today.' So they sent me to Cologne, in daylight, which was pretty exciting and very educational."
"We completed fourteen operations before we were shot down returning from Dortmund." The date was the 3rd of February 1945. He was flying No. 15 Squadron Avro Lancaster PD419.
Once again Jack tried to evade capture and was almost successful, making it once again to the Allied lines. "I very nearly got back. I could hear British Soldiers talking, I got that close. But it was the middle of winter, with ice on the ground, and I stood on a sheet of ice that collapsed. And I fell into this, and it made a hell of a noise, and the German soldiers jumped out of there. Fortunately they didn't shoot me. Anyway, that was the end of that."
So Jack was captured after two days on the run. He had to sit it out for the rest of the war. He says, "All the Air Force people were taken to a place where they were interrogated, and then from there I went to Nuremberg." This was Camp 13D (Nurnburg-Langwasser).
"And then from there we marched south, and I finished up at a place called Moosburg, near Munich."This huge POW camp was Stalag VII-A
at Moosburg, where by the war's end around 75,000 Allied prisoners had been herded together as the Allies advanced across Europe.
Eventually the Allies arrived and liberated the POW camp. "I was a POW from the 5th of February 1945 until May when General Patton arrived at the gates of our camp. Well it wasn't all that long really. Only a few months. But it was bloody miserable in those days."
Jack's war was over.
He was one of the 1476 RNZAF personnel who returned to New Zealand from Britain aboard the troopship Andes, docking at the Port of Lyttleton, Christchurch, on Wednesday the 24th of October 1945
After the war he stayed on in the military, but instead in the Army. "I wanted to stay in the Air Force actually, but they told us that we weren't wanted. And they were calling out for people to go to Japan, and I went up to Japan in the Army, thinking that when the Air Force woke up to themselves they'd say 'come on along'. Eventually they did, they called for people and a number of my friends joined. I applied, and they said 'Oh no, you've resigned your commission. You're now in the Army'. That was the end of that."
Jack modestly states at the end of this interview, "As I've said to other people that have talked to me about this sort of thing, you know, I'm certainly a very ordinary case. I'm sure there are much more interesting people, and highly decorated people, that are available... Bill Wells, he was a great example to me. I can remember I wrote to him and said I wanted to be a fighter pilot, and could he do what he could to get me there, you know. And he was a great example and had a bit of a reputation... I aspired to be like Bill Wells."
Personally I feel that anyone who did what Jack Morris did is quite a hero in his own right.
Died: Jack Morris died on the 5th of January 2017, aged 93, in Auckland
Connection with Cambridge: Jack Morris was born and bred in Cambridge.