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 17 June 1944, just 11 days after D-Day, 15 Dakotas first landed on an advanced landing ground, B-2 at Bazenville, near the Normandy beachheads. On this day alone they evacuated over 200 wounded men.
Flight Lieutenant John Morrison was 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 – 5 August 1944. 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.
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.
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 Magdelenes 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 Morroson family stayed at Station House, Blair Atholl, were 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 MORRI-SON, 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.
No. 575 Squadron was later involved in operations at Arnhem where the squadron suffered severe casualties.
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.
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
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