Donald Morris

Photo:Donald Morris

Donald Morris

Memories of service in the RAF and life as a prisoner of war.

Donald Morris worked as a Fire Watcher in London before volunteering for the RAF in 1941 aged 18 ½ years. He joined up at the Yorkshire Grey recruiting office in Eltham. He went in to train as a pilot and learned to fly in Perth, Scotland, before he was sent to flying school in Texas, and then Ontario, Canada. He went solo in a Tiger Moth training aircraft after five hours. The Lancaster Bomber was introduced during the time Donald was learning to fly and he recalls that ‘the RAF found that they had too many pilots so a number of men in training like me were diverted to train as air crew in the new Lancasters.’

103 Bomber Squadron

Donald served in 103 Bomber Squadron and was one of a crew of six. His memories of serving on the base in Lincolnshire are mainly very positive: ‘We did everything together and when we weren’t flying we were boozing!’ He flew five night missions to Berlin from Elsham Wolds, each trip was of around eight hours duration. The average age of a bomber in a Lancaster crew was 19 years old. On Christmas Eve 1943, Donald was ‘blown out’ of his aircraft over Hanover on a mission to Berlin. He was able to bail out at 20,000 feet with two other members of his crew. The remaining three airmen went down with the aircraft. He now knows that his colleagues are buried in a military cemetery near Hanover.

Donald landed in a tree and the other two airmen landed nearby. There was deep snow on the ground. Once his colleagues released him from the tree it became apparent that he had hurt his leg and that he could not walk very far, but the airmen wouldn’t leave Donald and make their escape.

They survived ‘at large’ for around 24 hours before they gave themselves up to a local woodcutter in a forest near where they had landed. Unable to walk, Donald was transported to the police station in a goat cart. The three prisoners were held in the local police station overnight before the Luftwaffe came to collect them.

Interrogation

The Luftwaffe took the three airmen to an interrogation camp in Frankfurt. They were put into single cells where the radiators were switched on and off to drastically alter the temperature. Donald explains:

'After three days each airman was collected for interrogation in the middle of the night. The interrogation took place in the commandant’s office, and various tactics were used to get us to talk including the firing of pistols in nearby rooms to make each airman think that their colleague had been killed. However, it soon became clear that the Luftwaffe had far more information about our operations than we knew!'

Camp life

Donald and his three colleagues were then moved to a permanent prisoner of war camp – Mühlberg, 80 kilometres from Leipzig, Germany. The camp held approximately 10,000 Allied prisoners, most had been serving in the Army when they were captured. Donald recalls that the camp had been used in the First World War, and while conditions weren’t ideal and there wasn’t a great deal of food, they were well treated. His main recollection of his time in the camp was that it was ‘very boring’ although he was promoted twice while he was there. Donald’s parent’s were informed he was ‘Missing from operations’ by telegram on Christmas Day 1943. They received no further word of their only child until they received a Red Cross postcard from him in April 1944.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 14/03/2012.

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