Morrison, William John (No. 1542075)

Morrison, William John (Billy)

Sergeant (Navigator/Bomber)

No. 1542075, No. 1674 HCU, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in an aircraft accident on Wednesday 12 April 1944 (aged 21)


Bangor Cemetery, Co. Down (Section 4. U. Grave 24)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Dun Fell Site Memorial Plaque

Bangor and District War Memorial

Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church

Annals of Helen’s Bay Presbyterian Church


William John (Billy) Morrison was the younger son of David and Matilda (Tillie) Morrison (nee Cathcart) who were married on 26 April 1916 in Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, Belfast.  David Morrison, a laundry man from Belfast was a son of William John Morrison, an engineer.  Matilda Cathcart was a daughter of John Cathcart, a tenter.

David and Matilda (Tillie) Morrison (nee Cathcart) had at least four children:

Annie Cathcart (Nana, born 4 February 1918 at 19 Grampian Avenue, Belfast)

Mary Edna (May, born 19 October 1919 at 272 Cambrai Street, Belfast)


William John (born around 1923)

The Morrison family lived at 53 Southwell Road, Bangor.

William John’s sister Nana married Jim Gorman on 12 July 1941, and he served with the Royal Air Force.  They had a daughter named Carole.

William John’s elder brother David also served with the Royal Air Force and, before the war, he was the Assistant Professional at Carnalea Golf Course.  David Morrison was reported in the Press to be the first member of the Bangor ATC to get his ‘wings’.

Billy Morrison was educated at Woodvale Public Elementary School, Belfast, and Ballymullen Public Elementary School, Crawfordsburn.  He was employed at the Bangor Shipyard Company and later at Messrs Harland and Wolff, Belfast.  He joined the Bangor Squadron of the Air Training Corps and was called up for service in the RAF in February 1942 (aged 19).  He received his training in Canada and the Bahamas and was then engaged in operational flying with Coastal Command.

At 5.05 pm on 11 April 1944 Sergeant William John Morrison (No. 1542075) was one of a nine-man crew aboard a Hanley Page Halifax Mark II aircraft (BB310) that took off from RAF Longtown near Carlisle on a cross country training flight. In the early hours of 12 April 1944, they were on the return leg of the flight and flying in from the north-west coast of England when they overshot their airfield, and the aircraft struck the ground.  There was low cloud covering the high ground in this area of the country and the aircraft struck Great Dun Fell to the north of Appleby at 1.37 am with the loss of all on board. On 1 May 1994, a memorial was erected at the crash site.  The other crew members who died that night were:

  • Flying Officer Paul Bevens Stevens (aged 25) from Euclid, Ohio, USA
  • Flying Officer Sydney Brookes (aged 31) from Burtons Green, Essex
  • Sergeant Robert James Littlefield (aged 20) from Bitterne Park, Southampton
  • Sergeant Hugh Dunningham (aged 22) from Hampstead
  • Flight Sergeant William Alan Johnson DFM (aged 23) from Gateshead, Durham
  • Flight Sergeant Frank Pess (aged 28) Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Flight Sergeant Harold Stanley Seabrook (aged 20) Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Sergeant Dean Walter Swedberg (aged 21) Royal Canadian Air Force

After Sergeant William John Morrison (No. 1542075) was killed, his family placed a Killed on Active Service notice in the 22 April 1944 edition of the County Down Spectator and it included the text:

God holds the key of all unknown

The funeral from his parents’ residence to Bangor Cemetery was on 19 April 1944 and the casket, draped with the RAF flag, was borne by relays of RAF personnel.

Sergeant William John Morrison (No. 1542075) was 21 when he died, and he is commemorated on the Dun Fell Site Memorial Plaque; on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church and in the annals of Helen’s Bay Presbyterian Church.  Billy Morrison’s mother Matilda died on 16 March 1973 (aged 82) and his father David died on 20 March 1976 (aged 87).