Hunt to trace family of Black Watch officer named on Belgian war memorial

Lt Edward Morrison's grave in Belgium. NO F32 Morrison war grave
Lt Edward Morrison's grave in Belgium. NO F32 Morrison war grave

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In the small Belgian cemetery of Anzegem, in Western Flanders, lie the bodies of 13 British soldiers.

The graves include three men from the 6th Battalion of The Black Watch, killed in May 1940, trying to hold off German forces and cover the withdrawal to Dunkirk. Among them is a young Black Watch officer.

Now attempts are being made by a local Belgian historical research group to try to find out more about him and his family connections to Fort William and Kinlochleven.

In the middle of May 1940, Lt Edward Francis Allardyce Morrison, aged just 26, and his comrades from the 6th Black Watch, took up their position as part of the British Army’s 4th Division on the right flank of the 44th Division.

The latter was dug in to defend a section of the so-called Escaut Line – part of the famous Maginot Line – between Oudenaarde and Kerkhove in Belgium.

Hostilities started on May 19 when Stuka dive bombers struck at the British lines. The German Wehrmacht then launched a drive to cross the Escaut (or river Scheldt) the following night.

The main attack came in the area around Petegem. At first attacks were succesfully repulsed, but the German forces were too strong and the two battalions were not able to hold the line.

Lots of casualties were incurred on both sides. Most of the British casualties were buried in field graves where they fell.

Later on these field graves were cleared and the bodies of servicemen and officers found a place in communal cemeteries in the area.

Bodies retrieved from field graves at Anzegem were excavated and reburied in
the village’s communal cemetery in June 1941.

The body of Lt Morrison was among the latter. Now the group from Anzegem trying to find out about the Black Watch soldiers has been put in contact with the Lochaber Times in the hope that our readers can help.

The young officer was the son of Edward Shaw Morrison and Katharine Ann Allardyce Morrison, who lived in Edinburgh at the time.

However Lt Morrison’s gravestone records that his parents were ‘late of Kinlochleven and Fort William’.

Jef Bogaert and his fellow group members have already erected a memorial for the crew of a crashed Lancaster bomber, as well as a memorial to an Australian fighter pilot serving with the RAF.

Mr Bogaert told the Lochaber Times: ‘The 6th Black Watch lost about six men in the area of Anzegem-Kaster. Apparently they were a unit from the 4th Division, but the Germans broke through the lines of the 44th Divison and the 6th Black Watch tried to close the gap.

‘It was fierce fighting. Most of the men were buried where they fell and later on in the summer of 1941, were excavated and reburied in the communal cemeteries of Anzegem and Kaster.

‘Anzegem cemetery has the graves of three Scotsmen serving in the 6th Battalion, The Black Watch – L/Sgt. Malcolm Dewar ; 2/Lt Ian Caldwell Perston Sloan and Lt Edward Francis Allardyce Morrison.’

Mr Bogaert said his research about the hostilities around his village during the war had brought him closer to those who gave their lives in its defence.

‘I got the death certificates and the identification documents and these brought me so close to the servicemen and officers I felt I almost knew them.’

Mr Bogaert added that he now has a description of Lt Morrison: ‘I know how tall he was and the colour of hair he had. But I would like to see a photograph of him and would love to be able to contact his family if possible.’

The ID documents describe Lt Morrison as 1.74m tall, with blond to ginger hair and a small moustache.

His shirt wore the factory brand F. Kemp 151-153 South Street in Perth and his
underwear was marked with something difficult to make out but looks like ‘Mair Nic-and T… Sadir, Fort William.’

Mr Bogaert said the bravery and sacrifice of the men had never been forgotten in this part of Belgium.

He concluded: ‘During the last remembrance services we called out their names, loud and clear, but we would like to do more. A scan of a photograph would be gratefully received.’

CAPTION:

Lt Edward Morrison’s grave in Belgium.

NO F32 Morrison war grave