On 6 June 1944, D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in military history took place. It was officially called ‘Operation Overlord’. It involved 156,115 troops, 6,939 ships and 2,395 aircraft along with 867 gliders. At the beginning of the invasion, RAF 575 Squadron dropped around a thousand airborne troops from the 1st Canadian and 9th Parachute Battalions, part of 3rd Parachute Brigade. They also towed 21 Airspeed Horsa gliders carrying troops into the battle. Daily they carried supplies and personal to Normandy and brought back the wounded for urgent medical treatment.
On 2 June 1944, the order was given to ‘seal’ the RAF Broadwell at 14.00 hrs. The following day approval was given for closing the Alvescot to Shilton Road. On 5th June 1944, RAF Regiment Squadrons provided guards for marshalled aircraft. All 59 crews (6 spare) attended lectures during the day and the final briefing at 20.00 hrs at the ‘War Room’. RAF Broadwell in the run up to D-Day had a tented village which housed both the 8th and 9th Parachute Regiments along with the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles. Security was very tight and the signal to prepare for the invasion was given by a Spitfire circling the airfield three times.
Douglas C-47 ‘Dakota’ KG326 took off at 23.30. From RAF Broadwell, 21 aircraft of 575 Squadron were detailed to drop Paratroops and equipment of the 3rd Paratroop Brigade on landing zone, DZ-N (East of the River Orne between the villages of Ranville, Amfreville and Le Mariquet). The squadron was over the drop zone at approximately 00.57 to 01.12 hours on D-Day 6th June 1944. All troops were dropped successfully.
Dakota KG326 landed back at base at 02.45. Some enemy opposition was encountered, and five aircraft were damaged by enemy flak, all returned safely. Weather 10/10, Cloud at 2,000 feet and Visibility 10 miles.
Crew on KG326:
Flying Officer Peter Carl Hakansson, RAFVR (152699)
Flight Lieutenant John Alexander Morrison, RAFVR (131804)
Sergeant E. F Guy
Pilot Officer W. Lomas
Douglas C-47 ‘Dakota’ KG326 with the same crew took off again at 18.55 on 6th June 1944, part of Operation Mallard. The mission’s objective was to airlift glider infantry of the 6th Airlanding Brigade and divisional troops to reinforce the 6th Airborne Division on the left flank of the British Invasion Beaches. Nineteen aircraft were detailed to land troops and equipment on Landing Zone DZ-N. Horsa Gliders were towed behind the Dakota’s and they were over the Landing Zone at approximately 20.57. All gliders were released successfully. Three aircraft were hit by small arms fire from a wood on the west bank of the River Orne, south east of Bénouville after turning to starboard on release of the gliders. Three hundred and four troops were carried, plus kit and equipment, including Jeeps, Cycles, Trailers and Motorcycles. One aircraft crashed on initial take-off and KG326 landed at 22.35. Weather was: – Visibility 10 Miles, Cloud 10/10 Medium and Wind 290/25 at 2,000.
On 10 July 1944, the same crew were back over Normandy, flying this time in Dakota FZ674. They conveyed 4023 lbs of general equipment to B 14, returning with 18 stretcher cases and 4 walking casualties. A new flying corridor was used, Christchurch to Barfluer to north of the River Vire. Take off was at 0800 and they returned at 12.36.
On 17 June 1944, just 11 days after D-Day, 15 Dakotas from RAF Broadwell made the first landing on the advanced landing ground, B-2 at Bazenville, near the Normandy beachheads. On this day alone they evacuated over 200 wounded men.
On 5 August 1944, Flight Lieutenant John Morrison was now the navigator on a Douglas C-47 ‘Dakota’ FZ674 of RAF 575 Squadron on a mission from RAF Broadwell, Oxfordshire, to evacuate casualties from the fighting in France. The Allies had air supremacy over this area, but flights over the Channel were still risky. They were heading for ALG, B-5 at Le Fresne-Camilly when they crashed on a field near ALG B-14, at Amblie.
These landing strips were just south of Juno Beach and north of Caen. The weather was foggy, and visibility was down to zero. Take off was at 08.59 with 4522 lbs of freight. FZ674 was reported as struck the ground and crashed.
On board Douglas Dakota FZ674 were:
Flying Officer Peter Carl Hakansson, RAFVR (152699), pilot, age 20
Flying Officer Norman Lomas, RAFVR (154352), navigator, age 32
Flight Lieutenant John Alexander Morrison, RAFVR (131804), navigator (bomber), age 26
Flight Sergeant Ernest Francis Guy, RAFVR (1317603), wireless operator, age unknown
Corporal William Edward Brennen, RAF (Auxiliary Air Force) (867113), age unknown
All the crew were killed. They are buried at Ryes War Cemetery, Bazenville. John Morrison was the son of Captain George James Morrison, MC, Seaforth Highlanders, and of Aenea Kate Morrison, 2 Brunswick Terrace, Perth (2 Brunswick Terrace is now 23 St Magdelene’s Road).
The newly promoted, Captain G J Morrison (11 April 1918) died of his wounds later in the day of the Battle of the Lys. The initial battle from 9 to 11 April 1918 was known as the Battle of Estaires, south of Dunkirk and north of Lens. George Morrison was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant 6th Seaforth Highlanders in January 1916. He was promoted to Lieutenant in October 1917 and Acting Captain in April 1918. He posthumously was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry. He enlisted in May 1915 and in December 1916 was invalided home with trench fever. He re-joined his battalion in May 1917.
Before enlisting the Morrison family stayed at Station House, Blair Atholl, where George was a junior clerk at Blair Castle. He is buried at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, Lapugnoy, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Aenea Morrison, a teacher, only married for two years to George never remarried. She died in 1978 in Dunkeld.
Perthshire Advertiser, 9th August 1944
“DEATHS – On Active Service
“MORRISON – Lost his life on operations in August 1944, F.-Lieut. JOHN ALEXANDER MORRISON, R.A.F., dearly beloved only son of the late Capt. George J. Morrison, M.C., Seaforth Highlanders, and of Mrs A. K. Morrison, Seaforth, 2 Brunswick Terrace, Perth.”
Perthshire Advertiser, 12th August 1944
“COUNTY AND CITY WAR CASUALTIES
“PERTH AIRMAN LOST IN FRANCE
“Mrs A. K. Morrison, 2 Brunswick Terrace, Perth, wife of the late Capt. George Morrison, M.C., who died of wounds in the last war, has received official word that her son, Flight Lieutenant John A. Morrison, has lost his life on air operations over France.
“Ft./Lt. Morrison, who was aged 26, joined the R.A.F. in 1940, and after completing his training about nine months later, served with Coastal Command in Britain, the Middle East and the Far East, eventually being transferred to Transport Command, to a post which he was holding at the time of his death. He was pilot in one of the first waves of paratroop planes over Caen and was also connected with glider operations in this sector.
“Educated at Perth Academy and Skerry’s College, Edinburgh, Ft./Lt. Morrison was a native of Blair Atholl, and previous to joining up he was employed with the Customs and Excise.”
John Morrison is also commemorated on the Perth (West) Church War Memorial.
The British military cemetery at Bazenville contains 979 war dead: 630 British, 326 Germans, 21 Canadians, 1 Australian and 1 Polish.
Brazenville was not under British control until the evening of 7 June 1944. The airfield, B-2 at Bazenville was fully operational, just eight days after D-Day.
RAF Broadwell saw the arrival of two squadrons of Dakotas from RAF Hendon on 24 January 1944. These were 512 and 575 squadrons. During the 6th of June 1944 initial assault, 32 Dakotas of 512 and 21 Dakotas of 575 dropped 952 paratroops on two drop zones in Normandy.
No. 575 Squadron was later involved in operations at Arnhem where the squadron suffered severe casualties. They took part in Operation Market (Garden) during the period 17-23 September 1944. Operation Market Garden 17-25 September 1944 consisted of two sub-operations:
Market: an airborne assault to seize key bridges, and;
Garden: a ground attack moving over the seized bridges creating the salient.
It is possible that Corporal Brennen was on board the Dakota FZ674 to care for the wounded.
Flight Lieutenant John Alexander Morrison, Perthshire Advertiser 12 August 1944
Positions of the 6th Airborne Division from 7 June 1944
By Jim Sweeney – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17198626
D-Day assault map of the Normandy region and the north-western coast of France. Souce: http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/Atlases/WorldWarTwoEurope/EuropeanTheaterGIF/WWIIEurope54.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=167322
D-day – British Forces during the Invasion of Normandy 6 June 1944 Commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, and troops of 6th Airborne Division in Bénouville after the link-up between the two forces, 6 June 1944.
This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. This image was catalogued as taken by the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) which operated between 1942—1946. photograph B 5058 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums
Pegasus Bridge, June 1944 Transport moving across the Caen Canal Bridge at Bénouville. The bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge, after the mythical winged horse on the formation sign of British airborne forces
his image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photograph B 5288 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums
ROYAL AIR FORCE TRANSPORT COMMAND, 1943-1945. (CH 12957) A Douglas Dakota Mark III of No. 575 Squadron RAF based at Broadwell, Oxfordshire, dropping paratroops over an airfield during an airborne exercise. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210547
ROYAL AIR FORCE: HEADQUARTERS ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY AIR FORCE, NO. 38 GROUP RAF. (CH 18862) Douglas Dakota Mark IIIs (FZ695 ?I9-A?nearest) of No. 575 Squadron RAF, preparing for a streamed take off at Broadwell, Oxfordshire, for a pannier-dropping exercise. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210851
ROYAL AIR FORCE: HEADQUARTERS ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY AIR FORCE, NO. 38 GROUP RAF. (CH 18832) Douglas Dakota Mark IIs of No. 575 Squadron RAF taxying off at Broadwell, Oxfordshire, for a pannier dropping exercise. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210847
ROYAL AIR FORCE TRANSPORT COMMAND, 1943-1945. (CL 3885) Douglas Dakota Mark IIIs of No. 46 Group at B2/Bazenville, Normandy, loading casualties for evacuation to the United Kingdom. Identifiable aircraft include KG432 ‘H’ of No. 512 Squadron RAF (centre), and KG320 ‘B1’ of No. 575 Squadron RAF (extreme right). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205211773