Thursday, 28 September 2017

In Control

 Sepia Saturday prompt #387 shows the cockpit of a 1948 B-36 bomber. I think I have a pretty good match in my family history collection this week.

The photographs below were taken by my uncle Kenneth Forbes Morrison of other planes that were flying alongside his, when he was training to be a pilot in Canada in WW2. They are Cessna Cranes, as shown here on the Canadian War Plane Heritage Museum site. The Cranes were used by the RACF in Canada to teach recruits from allied Commonwealth countries to fly multi- engined aircraft. Ken from New Zealand was one of those recruits, as was my father-in-law Bob Featherston from Australia. Ken took quite a few snaps of his time in Canada and the US and I think that after his death either my mother or another member of the family must have lovingly placed them in an album of which I am now the keeper. I've blogged previously about Ken, the uncle I never knew.

This photograph of the Cessna controls is also from Ken's album. The clue to the type of plane it was is the word Cessna, which appears on each of the foot pedals below the control panel. 

I don't think this is Ken but it may be a snap he took of one of his fellow pilots, standing in front of a Cessna Crane and proudly displaying his graduation certificate.

After Ken qualified he went to England where he flew a Halifax heavy bomber. It was in one of these much larger planes that he was tragically shot down and killed while taking part in a bombing raid over Germany, along with all his crew and so many other young men, on 23 June 1943. 

  • Last week we were in London and took the opportunity to visit the RAF Museum at Hendon, which has a lot of old aircraft on display. I don't believe they had a Cessna Crane in their collection, but they did have this unrestored Halifax, which had been salvaged many years later from the depths of a Norwegian lake. It is one of only three surviving examples of the Halifax. Here are a couple of photos I took of it.

View inside the cockpit of the recovered Halifax, which a friendly volunteer guide pointed out was very spacious, compared for example with the Lancaster bomber flown by Bob Featherston.  

The insignia of the 78th RAF Squadron to which Ken was seconded

 This restored Lancaster heavy bomber was also part of the collection

For more blogs prompted by Sepia Saturday #287, just check those dials, pull the levers, raise the flaps, prepare for take off and go up, up and away to your next destination here

"They had bombed London, whether on purpose or not, and the British people and London especially should know that we could hit back. It would be good for the morale of us all."
— Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, ordering the RAF to start bombing German cities, cited in M. Hastings, Winston's War, 25 August 1940

It may have been good for British morale generally but it was far from good for all the families of those thousands of young men who were to lose their lives as a result of Churchill's order, not to mention all the civilians on the ground who must also have been killed.

Here is a song for Ken, Blue Yonder, sung by my favouite Canadian, David Francey.


  1. You're right on the point for this week's meme. Great photos of old planes, as well as you personal connection of your Uncle Ken. So glad you toured the museum and were able to share more photos of old planes.

  2. A lovely tribute to your Uncle Ken, and a spot on match with the prompt photograph.

  3. You have so many interesting family stories. What gems those shots that Ken took.

  4. Wonderful post about your Uncle Ken. You are so fortunate to have those photos he took. Nice to see your contemporary shots in this post as well, bringing his story full circle.

  5. Such a fascinating read, dripping with history. I am so glad the prompt gave rise to such a wonderful crop of memories.

  6. Wonderfully clear picture of the Cessna controls, and a very interesting post. I have a soft spot for the Lancaster bombers; my Dad worked on them in WW2 and my husband was OC Eng with responsibility for the Battle of Britain memorial Flight.

  7. I read in your link that Ken trained in Brandon Manitoba, very near where I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. One of the marvelous photos you have of him with his friends may have been at Winnipeg Beach, a very popular spot. He was so young. It's hard to imagine the level of responsibility they bore and their tragic sacrifice. Great post.

  8. Indeed a perfect post all around. Your recent photos from the RAF Museum make a fitting addition to your uncle's history and photos.

  9. A perfect and totally interesting match to the prompt!

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  11. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris