History has found one of the men of Malvern Collegiate again, just a couple months before the school celebrates its 110th anniversary.
His name was Sgt. Morris Murray and he was killed on June 6, 1944, which is why his story was last told by this writer when a Malvern Grade 10 class travelled to Normandy, France in March 2009. The students were there to visit his grave site in Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery along with those of two other Malvern men killed in later battles.
It was because he died on D-Day that Murray’s story is being rediscovered by Breanna Cristobal, a Grade 10 student at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute, who drew his name at random from a list of 361 Canadians killed on that most famous day of the Second World War. When it’s finished, her account of Murray’s life and his role in the events of that day will be given to the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy where future visitors can learn about him.
Lying just 78 km southwest of Ottawa, Smiths Falls is also where Cristobal’s teacher, Blake Seward, started his award-winning history program called the Lest We Forget Project that introduces students to the thrill of primary source research while helping to commemorate the men’s sacrifice.
“Instead of learning what is in the history textbook, Mr. Seward taught me to look at what’s outside of the textbook,” said Cristobal. “He definitely changed the way I learn, for sure.”
Cristobal’s first attempt to get at the story led her to two people who know Murray’s story well: his niece Nancy Pryor and this writer.
It was in the pre-dawn hours of D-Day that Murray, an RCAF navigator, and the RAF crew of a Halifax bomber from 76 Squadron flew over Juno Beach to bomb a gun emplacement threatening the approaching invasion fleet. Their plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crashed just a few kilometres inland. The crew all died and the local townsfolk buried them in an orchard near the crash site. Being Canadian, Murray was later moved to Bény-sur-Mer, while the rest of the crew were reburied 23 km away in Bayeux War Cemetery.
Cristobal is using Murray’s service record from Library and Archives Canada’s research centre in Ottawa, to learn about his life and family, where he went to school, how he became a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force and married before leaving for the war.
This and other stories about Malvern’s history will be on offer when former students gather for the school’s 110th reunion, May 11-12. In addition to opening ceremonies featuring the alumni band, there will be displays and ‘Decade Rooms’ where visitors can be reminded of their high school days, meet old friends and learn more about the school’s long history. On the Sunday, there will be a ceremonial gathering at 10 a.m. at the cenotaph in front of the school, followed by historic walking tours of the Beach led by local historian Gene Domagala.
Alumni and friends can register online at malvern110.eventbrite.ca. Tickets for the reunion are $30 and include a copy of Malvern at 110, a souvenir issue of the Musings newsletter and an event program. Visitors can also pre-order lunch for $10. Be sure to register ahead of time to be guaranteed a copy of the souvenir publications and a meal, as quantities will be limited.
Malvern’s Bomber Boys
Morris Murray was one of many Malvern men who enlisted in the RCAF, considered by many as the glamour arm of the services. In fact, a majority became flyers and most were destined to serve with Bomber Command in the strategic air war against Nazi Germany. An article in Beach Metro News in November, 2012 listed a number of Malvern’s Bomber Boys and some readers asked why more weren’t mentioned. Here, then, is a list (with their years at Malvern in brackets) of some others on the Honour Roll and a brief description of their fate.
Flight Sgt. Clifford Raymond Andrews (1933-1937) was the pilot of a Wellington twin-engine bomber from 199 Squadron that took off from RAF Ingham, an air base eight kilometres north of the City of Lincoln, England, on June 12, 1943. Like dozens and dozens of similar bases in the country’s northeast, Ingham was located in Lincolnshire because it was closer to Germany. And, like too many of the aircraft which flew from these bases during the war, Wellington HZ 277 took off for a mission and was never seen again, it’s fate simply recorded as “FTR” – failed to return.
Pilot Officer Robert George Brock (1932-1939) was the bombardier in a Lancaster from 50 Squadron. On April 25, 1944, his plane was hit by flak over Munich and broke apart in two sections that fell near Munchen-Laim. Brock was a veteran with more than 20 missions to his credit and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his “bravery, skill and devotion to duty.”
Flight Sergeant Fred Paul Cartan (1936-1940) was not awarded a medal, but his actions on the evening of Oct. 14, 1944, were noteworthy all the same. A member of the RCAF’s 425 ‘Alouette’ Squadron, Cartan was the navigator in a Halifax sent to attack the city of Duisburg. After bombing the target, the aircraft was hit by flak setting one engine on fire and forcing Cartan and Flying Officer Charles Pidcock, the pilot, to look for a place to make an emergency landing. When the two men determined the aircraft was no longer over enemy-occupied territory, they ordered six members of the crew to bail out. Cartan and Pidcock had waited for the others before jumping themselves, but it was too late and both men were killed.
Warrant Officer Kenneth George Davis (1929-1933), an air gunner, was another Malvern veteran who flew 43 operational missions and, once his initial tour of duty was over, volunteered to fly with a Pathfinder squadron, one of the more dangerous jobs in Bomber Command. On Nov. 26, 1943, his 83 Squadron Lancaster was shot down and crashed near Berlin, killing all aboard. Before he died, Davis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for flying so many missions – a rarity in Bomber Command, where the chances of being killed were so high.
Flying Officer Hugh Richard John Hennessey (1927-1928) was 33 when he was killed – somewhat old for air crew. He was flying in a Lancaster from the RCAF’s 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron on March 16, 1945, just months before the war ended, when it was shot down by a night fighter over the Rhine River during a mission to bomb the city of Hagen. Three of the crew survived and evaded capture, but sadly Hennessey was not among them.
Flight Lieutenant Donald Stuart Reddy Hepburn (1930-1935) was an Air Observer with the RAF’s 97 Squadron and took part in one of the more notable raids of the early Bomber Command campaign. In April 1942, a flight of Lancasters was sent on a low-level daylight attack on an engine factory in the city of Augsburg. Hepburn’s plane was hit by flak in the target area and crashed in flames. After the Augsburg raid, it was determined daylight attacks were too costly and Bomber Command turned to attacking at night. Hepburn’s brother Reg (1932-1933) also joined the air force and was still learning his craft as a pilot at No. 2 Operational Training Unit, when his twin-engine Beaufighter crashed in a snow storm one mile east of Bewholme, Yorkshire, killing him and his navigator.
There are too many stories about the Bomber Boys of Malvern to tell them all here. The following men were also killed fighting with Bomber Command; their stories will be told in a future issue: David Fenton (1934-1936), Bill Larmouth (1933-1935), Stanley (1939-1941)and Neil (1935-1937) Mara, Clifford Maw (1930-1935), Douglas May (1925-1928), Grant McCardle (1937-1941), John M. McDonald (1931-1934), Bill McEwan (1934-1936), Nelson Noble (1931-1937), John Ross Switzer (1938-1940), Ken Tutton (1936-1941), Cayley Wilson (1928-1930), Victor Wintzer (1937-1938) and Gordon R. Wright (1935-1940).
David Fuller is a Malvern parent, historian and decade representative (1903-1939) for the Malvern Red and Black Society. If you know anything about the men and women from Malvern who fought in the wars, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.