Morris Campbell Murray

Flight Sergeant Morris Campbell Murray, R175338
Toronto, Ontario
Royal Canadian Air Force

 Flight Sergeant Morris Campbell Murray était parrainé par la famille Clearihue.

Morris Campbell Murray was born on April 28th, 1915 in Toronto, Ontario. His parents were Robert Campbell Murray and Gertrude Helen Morris Murray. He served during the Second World War as a navigator in the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command. Morris grew up in a home along with his parents and three younger siblings: Gladys Muriel Murray (Sept. 9, 1916–Dec. 24, 1992), Alan Sinclair Murray (Oct. 12, 1919-Aug. 29, 2007) and David Robert Murray (Aug. 1, 1931-Jan. 7, 2002).

As a child, Morris was described as an average boy with features of blue eyes and brown hair. He engaged in sports such as swimming, baseball, hockey and lacrosse. He wasn’t just interested in athletics; he played piano as well. At the age of 11, Morris performed and won the Toronto Conservatory Introductory Medal in a piano competition in 1926. This talent passed on to his younger sister Gladys who earned a diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

He grew up in the Beach area of Toronto, a neighbourhood that resembles a small town inside a big city. It lies on the shore of Lake Ontario and is considered a special part of Toronto for its long history.  He attended Balmy Beach Public School from 1921 to 1928 where he excelled in his academics. He was described as “the star of the family; the first child, the first boy” by his mother Gertrude Helen Morris Murray. His brother Alan considered Morris to be more “studious and a bookworm” than himself.

In Murray’s high school years, he attended Malvern Collegiate Institute from 1928 to 1933, a senior matriculation school which meant that students were generally higher skilled than most of the men who volunteered for the army and were better prepared for university.  He is one of the 103 from Malvern – 102 men and one woman – who were killed during the war and listed on the school’s Honour Roll 1939 to 1945 for his service. In total, 81 per cent of the Malvern men became pilots or navigators because of their high skills in maths, athletics, and sciences. The school even offered an air cadet league lead by math teacher Colin Mackenzie Arnot, which sparked students’ interest in the air force.

From 1933 to 1939, Morris was a student at the University of Toronto, studying for a Bachelor of Commerce degree. This was where he met Fern Elizabeth Hillier, who later became his wife. After his years in university, Murray got a job in 1939 as an accountant in charge of the Tool Records Cost Dept. at John Inglis and Company (now commonly known as Whirlpool) in Toronto which manufactured appliances. During the Second World War, this factory was converted to a war production, creating a massive amount of Bren guns. A Bren gun is a light machine gun operated by gas with a .303 caliber, commonly used in the Canadian Army from 1939 to 1945. This was developed by Britain in 1937 from a Czech prototype of the first Bren gun ZGB-30. He worked as a cost clerk and left in 1942 to join the RCAF.

On June 24, 1942, he signed up as an observer for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The RCAF was considered the glamour arm of the services because of the skill needed in order to be recruited. Because of the Air Cadet League that was offered in his high school, he was more interested and believed he was fit to become an airman instead of a soldier. His actions influenced his younger brother Alan, who also joined the RCAF.

At this time, Morris was 27 years old and had a height of 5-foot-7. His recruitment interviewers stated: “Medium build, neat, clean, average appearance, confident, sincere, mature, pleasant manner, employed past 3 yrs. in cost dept. of munitions plant, engages in softball, squash and swimming moderately, has been driving cars 8 yrs. Well spoken, cautious type, organized, desires to become observer. Good material.” On 26 June 1942 (two days later), he was accepted at the Toronto Recruiting Centre. On the same day, Morris proposed to Fern Elizabeth Hillier, whom he had met in university. They were wed on July 18, 1942 at the Wesley Mimico United Church. Before he left, they went on a trip to Muskoka for their honeymoon. As 22 July 1942 approached, his life took a great shift from the one he had lived the past 27 years to a world full of battle and war. He was called to start his training. They had only been married for a very brief time before he went overseas for training and battle.

The day he began his training was 23 July 1942. His first stop was No. 5 Manning Depot in Quebec, an RCAF station that lies near Lachine and Dorval. This was one of five locations for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP, “The Plan”). Trainees such as Murray would go through medical tests and receive uniforms, practicing marching drills and guard duty until there was enough room for them to join Initial Training School. On 12 September 1942, he was moved to No. 16 Service Flying Training School in Hagersville, Ontario, where he was trained to fly Harvard and Anson aircraft up until 8 November 1942, when he flew back to Toronto to train at No. 6 Initial Training School (ITS). ITS was one of the most difficult programs. This school taught the basics of air training and trainees who could not meet the standards would be quickly eliminated from the air force. Fortunately for his acceleration in academics and the Air Cadet League in his high school, Murray passed. He spent the next few weeks there and went on leave for Christmas from 24 December to 29 December 1942 to visit his family and wife.

After his return to the Initial Training School, he was promoted from air crew first class to LAC (Leading Air Crew as a navigator) on 23 January 1943. This promotion earned him a special leave until 8 February 1943. This was his last time to visit his family. Instead of staying the 16 days he was offered, he traveled and arrived a day earlier to No. 7 Air Observer School in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. In this program, Murray was put in a course to learn about aerial photography, navigation and reconnaissance in a 12-week span. He completed his course on 25 June 1943. This was the day when he officially became a Navigator for the RAF and received the Navigator Badge, nearly a year after he first enlisted in the RCAF. On the journey to England, Murray pre-embarked two days later to a holding unit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he stayed until 10 July 1943. It was normal for aircrews to stay for a week or two to receive pay and their rations. On 16 July, he began his trans-Atlantic trip to the RAF Training Pool in the United Kingdom.

After a six day boat trip, he arrived at No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, in Bournemouth where he stayed until 20 September. Between the times from July to September, he went on leave for six days to experience England. This was a drastic change for Morris and many airmen as they may have experienced their first long sail and a country they may have not been to before. On 20 September 1943, he moved to No. 9 Advanced Flying Unit (RAF Llandwrog, Wales), a Bomber Command airfield for training gunners, navigators and radio operators. This was one of the largest airfields during the Second World War in Wales. He spent approximately two months until he was moved to No. 19 Operational Training Unit (OTU) (RAF Kinloss and RAF Forres) in Scotland on 2 November 1943. This was where airmen selected and were trained to become a crew using twin-engine Vickers Wellington aircraft (displaced by four-engine “heavies”).

Morris became good friends with an airman in his crew named Thomas Andrew McRobbie who was the air gunner. They even hiked up the old volcano just outside of Edinburgh, which may have been what he was doing when he took leave from 29 February 1944 to 14 March 1944. The next place he was attached to is 41 Base, No. 4 Group Battle School (RAF Driffield). He is detached from this on 21 March 1944 to 1658 Conversion Unit (RAF Ricall) in Yorkshire. Four days later, Morris earned a promotion and became a flight sergeant. This caused him and his British crew – Pilot Officer Stanley Arthur Douglas (pilot), Sergeant Norman John Neal (flight engineer), Flying Officer Ivor Reginald Draper (air bomber), Sergeant Douglas William Henry (wire operator/ air gunner) Sergeant Peter Craig (air gunner) and Sergeant Thomas Andrew McRobbie (air gunner) – to join 76 Squadron in Home-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire. They only had a three day leave until they flew their first mission; to destroy the Cherbourg radio station in France.

Their first mission was to bomb the radio location masts on the late night of June 1, 1944 in order to prevent German forces from making connections and send messages in preparation for D-Day. There were no casualties recorded and the bombardment of the radio station was a great success. At this time, Morris and his crew flew a Halifax MK III Bomber LW638 (code letters: MP-W). This aircraft was Britain’s second best heavy bomber at the time. It was a heavy bomber, primarily used during the night but was also used for Coastal Command during the Normandy Invasion to hunt U-boats and for dropping paratroops. The MK III consisted of a four gun Boulton Paul Type E turret in the rear, a single Vickers K gun in the nose and a 4-gun Boulton Paul Type A upper turret, each carrying .303in-machine guns. The maximum cruising speed was 215 miles per hour at 20, 000 feet in the air. This plane came from the Halifax MK I and II and was improved, but it retained the same 13, 000 lbs. bomb load as the other two. This plane caused the MK II and MK V to be obsolete. 76 Squadron’s mission was to destroy the rail yards with 18,500lbs of bombs at Trappes, about 40 kilometres west of Paris, France on June 2and 3 so that the Germans could not move their tanks and troops to Normandy. They were assigned to bomb the railways along with five 4 Group squadrons and two 8 Group squadrons. Although they were the second raid on this area, this mission did not run as smoothly as the previous mission. With 128 aircraft detailed for the raid, the RAF lost 15 Halifax bombers and 1 Lancaster (12.5% of this force) according to The Bomber Command Diaries. Weather was not reliable and caused the majority of bombs dropped to hit east of the target, but they still managed to destroy it. The Trappes railway yards had enemy troops and tanks present in the area. An aerial battle occurred with the between 76 Squadron and Luftwaffe aircraft which resulted in casualties.

The third mission to Mont Fleury was Morris’ last mission. Mont Fleury lies near Ver-Sur- Mer and is behind King Beach of France. The reason for this attack on Mont Fleury was to destroy one of the two artillery batteries protected by bunkers of thick, cement bunkers. Four Russian guns type K390/2 were housed in two H679 Casemates, while the other two were situated in the open. Many of the batteries were placed evenly along every section of the beaches of France because, at this time, the Germans expected an invasion in the northeast of France rather than southwest. A total of 1012 aircraft, including 551 Lancasters, 412 Halifaxes and 49 Mosquitoes were assigned to bomb the batteries.

The late night of June 5, 1944 was more difficult in comparison to his last two missions because of the weather. The first take-off took place at 0228 hours and a total of 124 aircraft were dispatched to Mont Fleury. Cloud cover persisted, meaning that it was very cloudy and difficult to see the target. Because of this, Murray, as a navigator, used radar called Gee to navigate through. Gee was a simple electronic navigating system that was modified for bomb aiming. They could not rely on their lights either as that would give away their presence to the German defenders below. The Halifax bombers had to fly in complete darkness next to one another and were not aware of other planes’ presence until they felt they were very close.  The goal, as outlined by Report #147 of the Historical Section of Canadian Participation in Operation in Northwest Europe, the Air Forces “were to use medium or fighter bomber attacks against the Beny-sur-Mer, Ver-Sur-Mer and Mont Fleury batteries, timed as to follow on the naval bombardment of those positions.” For this mission, 76 Squadron was ordered to bomb at 10, 11 and 12 000 feet, which was a low altitude for bombing, but they had to descend under thick clouds to find the target. This gave a high chance of the German flak battalion to shoot at them more easily.

At this time, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) was weak. They were not prepared for the invasion in Normandy and had been more concerned with protecting Germany from Allied bombing. This was a high concentration raid with 103 out of 114 Halifaxes attacking the primary target with 540 tons of bombs dropped, but only one 500lb bomb struck one of the casemates. It did not do much damage. Unfortunately, out of those 114 Halifaxes, two were lost, which included Murray and his crew. Their plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire known as flak during the early hours of June 6 1944. Derived from the German word Fliegerabwehrkanone, flak means (lit., flyer) + Abwehr defence + Kanone gun. It’s a bursting shell that is shot in the air to hit planes. The crew was shot down a few miles inland of Grey-sur-Mer and the local people buried all of their bodies in an orchard. Because Morris was the only Canadian in his crew, he was moved to Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery while the rest of them were moved to the Bayeux War Cemetery, 23 kilometres away. The artillery at Mont Fleury was not destroyed by the RAF that night. Instead, it was attacked by the British army in the later hours of D-Day, when CSM Stan Elton Hollis won the Victoria Cross for putting the guns out of action almost single-handedly.

76 Squadron continued their battles during D-Day up until World War II ended. One of the very memorable moments from the pre-hours of the D-Day invasion were the planes flying across the channel overhead of the soldiers in the invasion fleet. This was a common memory to many. Over 60 million Allied soldiers fought for their countries and ours, including Morris Campbell Murray. Morris was one out of millions of soldiers and aircrew who risked their lives for the right of freedom. As a member of 76 Squadron, he was one of the 775 casualties who fought until they could no longer fly, who fought to the best of their own ability until there was no strength left. He was a brother to both his siblings and crew. He was a positive influence to Alan, Gladys, and David. He was the son of proud parents of Robert and Gertrude Murray. Morris Campbell Murray is an airman who will not be forgotten for his righteous actions and acts of bravery through leadership and knowledge.

Written by a student at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute, Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Rédigé par un élève de Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute, Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.

REMEMBER TODAY, REMEMBER ALWAYS.

THIS TRIBUTE PROFILE CONTAINS AVAILABLE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON ONE OF THE CANADIANS WHO DIED ON JUNO BEACH ON 6 JUNE 1944. THE PROFILE ALSO RECOGNIZES THE INDIVIDUAL OR ORGANIZATION WHO GENEROUSLY SPONSORED THIS SOLDIER, AND INCLUDES A MESSAGE OF THANKS AND REMEMBRANCE FOR THEIR SACRIFICE. THIS INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE SOLDIER’S NATIVE TONGUE AND HAS BEEN COMPILED BY THE LEST WE FORGET PROGRAM AND, IN SOME CASES, THROUGH THE GENEROSITY OF INDIVIDUALS CONNECTED WITH THE SOLDIERS. DUE TO THE INCONSISTENCY OF HISTORICAL RECORDS AND THE SPARSE AVAILABILITY OF FIRST-HAND WITNESSES, WE KNOW MORE ABOUT SOME THAN OTHERS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE ANY MATERIAL OR HELP IN OUR EFFORTS TO PRESENT THE BIOGRAPHIES IN BOTH FRENCH AND ENGLISH, PLEASE CONTACT: JBCA@JUNOBEACH.ORG.

CE PORTRAIT CONTIENT DES INFORMATIONS BIOGRAPHIQUES RELATIVES À L’UN DES CANADIENS QUI SONT MORTS SUR LA PLAGE JUNO, LE 6 JUIN 1944. IL PORTE ÉGALEMENT MENTION DE LA PERSONNE OU DE L’ORGANISATION QUI A GÉNÉREUSEMENT PARRAINÉ CE SOLDAT, AINSI QU’UN MESSAGE DE REMERCIEMENT EN SOUVENIR DE SON SACRIFICE. CES INFORMATIONS SONT DISPONIBLES DANS LA LANGUE MATERNELLE DU SOLDAT ET ONT ÉTÉ COMPILÉES PAR LE PROGRAMME LEST WE FORGET ET, DANS CERTAINS CAS, GRÂCE À LA GÉNÉROSITÉ DES PERSONNES LIÉES AUX SOLDATS. EN RAISON DE LA DISPARITÉ DES DOCUMENTS HISTORIQUES ET DES RARES TÉMOINS DE L’ÉPOQUE, NOUS NE DISPOSONS PAS DE LA MÊME QUANTITÉ D’INFORMATION SUR TOUS LES SOLDATS. SI VOUS SOUHAITEZ COMPLÉTER NOTRE DOCUMENTATION OU NOUS AIDER DANS NOS EFFORTS POUR PRÉSENTER LES BIOGRAPHIES EN FRANÇAIS ET EN ANGLAIS, MERCI DE CONTACTER : JBCA@JUNOBEACH.ORG.