Lest We Forget Biography: Sgt Morris Campbell Murray

Photo of Morris in a navigator uniform. Courtesy of David Fuller.Morris Campbell Murray

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) navigator Sergeant Morris Campbell Murray was born on April 28th, 1915 in Toronto, Ontario. His name was obtained from parents 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.i

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).ii As a child, Morris was Photo of Alan Sinclair Murray (left), Morris Campbell Murray (centre), and Gladys Muriel Murray (right). Courtesy of Nancy Murray-Pryor.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.iii 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 Photos of Morris as a baby. Courtesy of Nancy Murray-Pryor.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. Morris was considered to be more “studious and a bookworm” his brother Alan would say in comparison to himself.iv

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.v He is one of the 103Photo of Morris and a lacrosse stick. Courtesy of David Fuller. 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 skill in math, athletics and sciences. The school even offered an air cadet league led by math teacher Colin Mackenzie Arnot, which sparked students’ interest in the air force.vi

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 war production, creating a massive amount of Bren guns. A Bren gun is a light machine gun operated by gas and firing .303 British ammunition , 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.vii

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 for this placement in becoming an airman instead of a soldier. His actions influenced his younger brother Alan, who also joined the RCAF. Morris acted as the leader and role model of the family because of the influences he had on his siblings Alan and Gladys, who followed in his footsteps both in joining war or a music career. At this time, Morris was 27 years old and had a height of 5-foot-7. His 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,” by interviewing and flying officer M.J Moran.viii It was not until June 26, Photo of the Wesley Mimico United Church in Toronto, Ontario (Marriage of Morris and Fern). Courtesy of David Fuller.1942 (two days later), when he was accepted and recruited at the Toronto Recruiting Centre. On this same day, perhaps the realization of his chance of death in this war started to sink in. Because of this, his chances of doing the things he dreamed of were slowly fading. This is likely why Murray decided to make a quick decision on how he wanted to live the next 42 days; to propose to Fern Elizabeth Hillier who he met in university. This proposal occurred on June 26, 1942 as well and they were wed on July 18, 1942 at the Wesley Mimico United Church. Before his leave, they went on a trip to Muskoka for their honeymoon.ix But as July 22, 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 were married for a very brief time before he went overseas for training and battle.x

Photo of Morris. Courtesy of Library and Archives of Canada and Nancy Murray-Pryor.July 23, 1942 was the day he began his training. 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”). BCATP was a joint military aircrew training program, which involved the countries Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.xi In Canada, this program was of great interest because of the air force, and men from Allied countries traveling to this place was very common. U.S President Franklin Roosevelt called this program the “Aerodrome of Democracy”. 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 September 12, 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 Nov. 8, 1942, when he flew back to Toronto to train at No. 6 Initial Training School (ITS). ITS was one of the Photo of Morris Campbell Murray along with fellow navigators in training. Courtesy of Library and Archives of Canada and Nancy Murray-Pryor.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 Dec. 24 to 29 to visit his family and wife.xii 

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 Jan. 23. This promotion earned him a special leave until Feb. 8, 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 June 25, 1943.xiii This was the day when he officially became a Navigator for the RAF and received the Navigator Badge, nearly a year from when he first signed up for the air force.

On the journey to England, Murray pre-embarked two days later to a holding unit in Halifax, Nova Scotia and stayed until July 10, 1943. It was normal for aircrews to stay for a week or two to receive pay and their rations. On July 16, he began his trans-Atlantic trip to the RAF Training Pool in the United Kingdom. This boat trip took an entire six days until he arrived at No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, in Bournemouth where he stayed until September 20. Between the times from July to September, he went on leave for six days to experience England.xiv 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 Sept. 20, 1943, he then 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. Photo of a Halifax MKIII Bomber similar to Murray and his crew's aircraft. Courtesy of David Fuller.He spent approximately two months until he was moved to No. 19 Operational Training Unit (OTU) (RAF Kinloss and RAF Forres) in Scotland on Nov. 2, 1943. (This was where airmen were told to choose their crewmates. Pilots were generally the leaders and chose anyone he knew to be in his crew, and afterwards pilots chose airmen who they thought were suitable for their crew). This was where they were trained to become a crew using twin-engine Vickers Wellington aircraft (displaced by four-engine “heavies”). He 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. This can explain his leave from February 29, 1944 to March 14, 1944.xv

The next place he is attached to is 41 Base, No. 4 Group Battle School (RAF Driffield). He is detached from this on March 21 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.xvi 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 by Coastal Command during the invasion to hunt U-boats as the MK V 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.xvii This plane caused the MK II and MK V to be obsolete because the MK III was relatively more suitable for long missions over Germany.

76 Squadron’s mission was to destroy the rail yards with 18 500lbs. bombs at Trappes, about 40 kilometres west of Paris, France on June 2 and 3 so that the Germans could not move their tanks and troops to Normandy.xviii 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 between 76 Squadron and Luftwaffe aircraft which caused those casualties.

Photo of Night Operations prior to D-Day invasions. Courtesy of David Fuller.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.xix Four Russian guns type K390/2 were housed in two H679 Casemates, while the other two were situated in the open.xx 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 02.28 hours and a total of 124 aircraft were dispatched to Mont Fleury, 114 Halifaxes from 4 Group and 5 Lancaster IIIs from 582 Squadron. Cloud cover of 9/10 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.xxi 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.”xxii 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 chance for 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 but were more concerned with protecting Germany from Allied bombing. This was a highly Photo of Mont Fleury cement bunker with the far corner slightly damaged. Courtesy of David Fuller.concentrated 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.xxiii It did not create 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.xxiv 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.xxv

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.xxvi 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.

On May 7, 1945, No. 76 Squadron transferred to Transport Command and was converted to Dakotas, moving to RAF Broadwell. During that same year, they travelled to India where the squadron was disbanded in September 1946 and reconstituted as No. 62 Squadron.xxviPhoto of Morris' gravestone in the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. Courtesy of David Fuller.

The Second World War killed millions of people. This was the biggest war of all, causing the most destruction of property and amount of money which is why this was the biggest destructive conflict in history. As humans, we can be aggressive when conflict arises and we solve this through violence in order to deter it. When we are unable to defend our favour, one of our main options is through violence. Our world is a globe full of conflict and peace only happens when one overpowers and gains the ability to control the opposition, in a matter of days, months, weeks, or even years. In this case, World War Two slowly ended in peace after 6 long years of battle. The Allied countries were exhausted, but in the end, they gave us freedom and hope. Over 60 million of the Allies 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. Every part of this war contained strength, bravery, courage and the urge to fight for what is right. As a member of 76 Squadron, he was one of the 775Photo of letter and Memorial Cross given to Morris' mother Gertrude Helen Morris Murray. Courtesy of Nancy Murray-Pryor. 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, 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.


iMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray, Library and Archives of Canada (LAC), Record Group (RG) 24 Volume 28315
iiMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray; David Fuller, Morris Campbell Murray http://trees.ancestry.ca/tree/9121980/person/-849490556/facts, February 29, 2013
iiiEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013; Clever Pianist, Toronto Daily Star, September 18, 1926
ivEmail correspondence with Nancy Pryor, Niece of Morris Campbell Murray and daughter of Alan Sinclair Murray, email sent on March 22, 2013; Email correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on March 1, 2013
vEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013; Military Service File of Morris Campbell Murray
viEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013; Malvern Collegiate Institute, http://www.tdsb.on.ca/schools/index.asp?schno=5530, May 30, 2013
viiMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray; John Inglis and Co., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Inglis_and_Company, April 6, 2013
Ancestry, Murray, Sgt. Morris Campbell, RCAF http://trees.ancestry.ca/tree/9121980/person/-849490556, February 28, 2013
viiiMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray
ixEngagements, Murray-Hillier, Toronto Daily Star, June 30, 1942; Weddings, Murray-Hillier, Toronto Daily Star, July 21, 1942
xMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray
xiBritish Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Commonwealth_Air_Training_Plan, May 31, 2013
xiiRCAF Station Saskatoon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RCAF_Station_Saskatoon, May 31, 2013
xiiiRoots Web Ancestry, Training Plan, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nbpennfi/penn8b1TrainingPlan.htm, May 29, 2013
xivMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray
xvNo. 19 Operational Training Unit RAF, No. 19 Operational Training Unit RAF http://www.griffon.clara.net/19/frmain.htm, May 16, 2013; Military Service File of Morris Campbell Murray; Email correspondence with Nancy Pryor, Niece of Morris Campbell Murray and daughter of Alan Sinclair Murray, email sent on March 22, 2013
xviMilitary Service File of Morris Campbell Murray; Email correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013
xviiEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013; Bomber Command No. 76 Squadron http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/bombercommandno76squadron.cfm, May 6, 2013; Handley-Page Halifax Heavy Bomber http://www.constable.ca/caah/halifax.htm, March 15, 2013
xviiiEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013; Hood, Norman “The Story of The Third Bomber Command Raid on Trappes 1944” June 7 2013, 17
xixEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013
xxThe Atlantik Wall of Normandy, http://www.atlantikwall.org.uk/montfleury, April 24, 2013
xxiEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013
xxiiReport #147, Historical Section: Canadian Military Headquarters, Canadian Participation in the Operations in North West Europe, 1944.  Information accessed at: www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/his/rep_rap/index_eng.asp
xxiiiThe Atlantik Wall of Normandy, http://www.atlantikwall.org.uk/montfleury, April 24, 2013; Email correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013
xxivEmail correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, email sent on February 28, 2013
xxvBeny Sur Mer Canadian War Cemetary : http://www.todayisfree.com/360-365-Beny-sur-Mer-Canadian-War-Cemetery, March 15, 2013; Report on Operations, 76 Squadron, RAF, June 5-6, 1944; Email correspondence with David Fuller, Malvern Red and Black Society, Email sent on February 27, 2013; David Fuller, Beach Bombers Recognized http://www.beachmetro.com/2012/11/07/beach-bombers-recognized/, February 27, 2013; (June 5-6 1944). Report on Operations, 76 Squadron. RAF.
xxviStanley Elton Hollis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Hollis, May 31, 2013
xxviiAir of Authority-A History of RAF Organisation http://www.rafweb.org/Org-index.htm, June 6, 2013; 76 Quadron http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/76squadron.cfm, June 3, 2013

Breanna is a high school student in Blake Seward’s history class at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute in Ontario.

Editor’s Note: Every effort has been made to reproduce the Lest We Forget Biographies in their original form as submitted by the students. Minimal changes have been made for clarification and web formatting only.



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