War Memorial Hall c1929
Douglas George MORRISON
Douglas ‘Doug' Morrison was born on 8 May 1895 in Kilmore, Victoria. His parents were George Cowie and Edith Constance (née Hall) Morrison. He attended Scotch from 1908 to 1913.
Douglas was an orchardist when he enlisted on 5 October 1916. He served in No 2 Squadron AFC (also known as 68 Squadron) with the rank of Lieutenant.
Doug died on 29 October 1917 near Grevillers in France. He was 22 years of age.
Before enlistment Doug served in the Citizen Military Forces, where he had a provisional appointment as a Lieutenant of the 64th Battalion. On enlisting he was allotted as a Second Lieutenant to No. 3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps [designated by the British as ‘No. 68 (Australian)’ and referred to as such throughout his service record]. Some sources say he was initially in No. 2 Squadron. He embarked from Melbourne on 25 October 1916, arriving at Plymouth, England on 28 December.
On 8 January 1917 he was sent to 49 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps ‘for elementary instruction in aviation’. He succeeded there, and on 13 May joined the 68th Squadron at Harlaxton. In early June he was at a school of Gunnery at Turnberry. Later that month he was at a Flying School at Upavon, and on 30 June was promoted to full Lieutenant. He was attached to the 24th Squadron RFC from 27 July to 18 August 1917 ‘in the field’ – apparently France. He then returned ‘from overseas’ to the 68th Squadron (No. 2 AFC) at Harlaxton. On 21 September he went with the 68th to France.
On 13 October he was wounded in action and admitted to the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station. Lieutenant William Turner, an Old Scotch Collegian, was adjutant of Douglas’ squadron and in a letter explained the circumstances of Doug’s wounding while flying a scout plane. ‘Doug was sent out as a member of a patrol. Several Hun machines were encountered, and an aerial battle ensued. He became detached from the rest of the formation, and was immediately singled out by the enemy, who, concentrating on him, drove him down. He crashed in “No Man’s Land”, about 400 yards from our front line trench. He was apparently thrown clear of the machine when it hit the ground.’
Another account explains that Doug was one of four pilots returning from a patrol after not seeing a German aircraft in a week. However, when he developed engine trouble and fell behind the others, four German Albatross fighters shot him down. Turner quoted the squadron’s commanding officer, who had recently visited Morrison and two British officers in hospital. Morrison had been too ill to speak, but one of the others, Captain Heath, told how he had seen Morrison’s plane crash and then gone out to try to rescue him in No Man’s Land. Initially he was under cover but eventually he was visible to the enemy and was hit shortly before reaching the aircraft, where he found Doug lying in a shell-hole. Heath then crawled back for help and Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw sent two men out under cover of a white flag. The Germans respected this, so Shaw sent out two more men with a stretcher and Douglas was brought in. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw, who was standing on the parapet of the trench directing proceedings, was then struck by a bullet fired from elsewhere on the front. He was not seriously hurt.
Sadly the bravery of these two Englishmen was in vain: Doug died of his wounds on 29 October 1917. An official letter sent to his father on 31 October mentioned that Douglas had been dangerously wounded, with a gunshot wound to the right knee, fractured tibia and laceration of the axilla. His service record refers to the cause of death as gunshot wounds, amputation of the right leg and a laceration wound to the axilla (armpit). His personal effects included an ‘automatic pistol’ (apparently a Webley .455 calibre self-loading pistol), not army issue. His headstone has no epitaph, and no Roll of Honour circular was completed for him.
Douglas Morrison is buried in the Grevillers British Cemetery (Grave VII. C. 19).
Photographs and Documents:
Studio photograph of Douglas Morrison from October 1916
Douglas Morrison is second from the left in this photo of 68 Squadron personnel in front of a De Havilland DH 5 aircraft at Harlaxton in September 1917. (AWM CO1852)
- Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
- Mishura Scotch Database
- Molkentin, Michael, Fire in the Sky: the Australian Flying Corps in the First World War, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2010
- National Archives of Australia – B2455, MORRISON DOUGLAS GEORGE
- Scotch Collegian 1918
- The AIF Project - https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=215191