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Roy Morrison of Truro Heights, a retired Warrant Officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, received recognition as a Lancaster Living Legend.
©Harry Sullivan/Truro Daily News
TRURO HEIGHTS, N.S. – The memories came rushing back for Roy Morrison as he laid his hands on a Lancaster bomber for the first time since crawling out of a tail gunner’s perch 72 years ago.
“It means a lot,” said Morrison, 93, of Truro Heights. Morrison recently visited Greenwood Aviation Museum where he was honoured with induction into the Lancaster Living Legends project.
[Living Legends ‘paid the ultimate price’: Greenwood museum honours Second World War pilots, builders ]
It’s there that a Lancaster, similar to the one he was aboard for 30 missions over Germany during the Second World War, is being restored.
“I’m happy to see them restoring it and keeping it,” he said. “It will be around for a good many years now.”
Morrison was 18 when he signed on with the Royal Canadian Air Force with hopes of becoming a pilot.
“I soloed in a Tiger Moth before I ever drove a car,” he said, of the open cockpit, bi-planes used as training craft during that era.
After washing out as a pilot, however, Morrison was assigned the position of air gunner – his seat was in the Lancaster’s glassed-in bubble at the rear of the plane.
“I was very slim,” he said, weighing in at about 130 lbs. at the time “Maybe that’s why they picked me to go in the tail.”
Clad in a heavy quilted suit beneath another canvas flying suit, heavy, sheep-lined boots and three pairs of gloves – silk, chamois and leather – Morrison was equipped with four .303 guns and approximately 1,000 rounds of belted ammo at his feet.
Between Nov. 15, 1944 and March 10, 1945 he participated in 17 daytime and 13 night missions. Each time he crawled over the tail spur to reach his seat, the same thoughts ran through his mind.
“I can’t remember when they weren’t scary,” he said, of flights over enemy territory. “You never knew what you were going to run into.”
That was especially true with the nighttime bombing runs when the large spotlights from below would trap him in the enemy sights and light up his glass bubble, while anti-aircraft flak exploded all around at close to 20,000 ft.
“They would come from all directions and they would try to get you in a cone so they could then concentrate the anti-aircraft fire on that cone and try to take you out,” he said. “And they could just pick you out like you were on the next street. It was just amazing what the power of those lights was.”
On occasion, some of the flak found the mark with Morrison’s Lancaster. Fortunately, in his case, it was never serious, unlike a lot of guys he knew who never returned.
But during his recent visit to the old Lancaster at the Greenwood museum, a lot of his memories did come back. And these days, as an old veteran chatting with a visitor in his kitchen on a cool spring morning, Morrison still can’t help but marvel at those war-torn times of long ago.
“Just a bunch of kids out there flying those airplanes,” he said. “Just wondering if you were going to get back.”
Roy Morrison’s Second World War service medals include
- 1939-45 Star
- France and Germany Star
- Defence Medal
- Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (and clasp)
- 1939-45 War Medal
- Bomber Command Bar
- General Service Badge
- RCAF Reserve Badge