Remembered by: Jane Hutchison
Date added: 9 Jul 2010
Robertson Edwin Henry Hood- Morris, - known fondly as ‘Bob’, was a Devonian. He was born in Ilfracombe. The family moved to Shaldon but when his father died at an early age, after a short spell in Plymouth, Bob with his mother, brother and sister settled in the seaside town of Exmouth with his maternal grandparents. It was here he completed his education and was an apprenticed electrical engineer before joining Post office telecommunications with head quarters at Exeter.
In 1941 Bobs life, as many others, was to change dramatically. War against Germany was declared in 1939 but it was not until 1941 that it was decided to release personnel from reserved occupations for the recruitment of pilots and observers in bomber command. Telecommunications had been classed as a reserved occupation so this gave Bob the chance to volunteer for air crew duties which he did immediately and after attending a board at Exeter he was accepted for observer training which commenced at St John’s College, Cambridge. Practical training was to be in South Africa at Oudtshoorn in the Cape Province.
On returning to England in 1942, Bob was given a few days leave and he and Joan were able , against all the odds, to happily arrange a very hasty wedding before Bob was posted to Upper Heyford for operational training. By this time observer duties had been split between navigator and bomb aimer. Bob decided on the latter before leaving Upper Heyford for Scampton for operational flying with a Lancaster Squadron. It was here he completed several missions but became a ‘spare part’ when on a raid home from the Bay of Danzig the Lancaster was attacked by a German fighter plane . Cannon shells raked the belly of the Lancaster and the plane was diving into the sea when a miracle happened and the aircraft for no apparent reason pulled out of the near fatal dive, limped home and was committed to a crash landing into a ploughed field. Only Bob and the flight engineer came out of it fit for immediate flying duties and Bob was scheduled for a posting to Langar via Bottesford where he stayed for six weeks taking part in several missions with a superb Australian Squadron. His unexpected stay in Bottesford for six weeks was due to the station being under quarantine for scarlet fever.
At Langar, Bob met his new crew. His skipper was W/C ‘Tabs’ Parselle, the station commander, and his second day there was spent preparing for an operational flight - the target Essen. But it was the second mission that was to change the course of Bob’s life when the Lancaster, returning from a raid on Dusseldorf, was attacked by a German night fighter over Nijmegen in Holland. Cannon shells came thundering into the plane from nose to tail. The communication system was lost and both port engines were on fire as Bob tried to reach the crew from his position in the nose of the aircraft. He managed to wrench his parachute from the storage point and struggled to clip the parachute to the harness on his chest managing only one of the two clips. It was then the plane dived and went into a tight spin with Bob standing on his head pinned to the nose of the aircraft before the plane exploded. Bob had no memory of what happened then but when he regained consciousness he found himself in a field on wet ground with the open parachute beside him and cords wrapped around his arms and legs. There was a smell of burning and pieces of scorched material fell away from his flying suit. He was captured by two Dutch policemen and frog marched barefoot to the Gestapo headquarters and after prolonged interrogation was eventually taken to Stalag Luft 6, a POW camp in Lithuania. He had completed twenty three bombing missions. Later he was told the pilot too had survived but tragically the remainder of the crew had perished .
In 1995-50 years after the fatal night, Bob and his family, visited the site of the crash and met the Dutch family who had assisted the pilot to escape before, he too, was taken as a POW. They were also taken to the Uden War Cemetery to the graves of the other members of the crew who died that night, so beautifully tended by the Dutch people and Bob was presented with a wreath to place on each grave. It was a very moving experience.
After the war Bob returned to his job in telecommunications – BT as it now is, and retired after 42 years service. At the time of his retirement he was the Executive engineer at Tiverton responsible for the maintenance of staff and equipment over a wide area in the South West.
In his retirement Bob was a keen bridge player; he had introduced the game to his fellow POW’s making a pack of cards from salvaged pieces of cardboard. He also took part in several sports and was still playing golf at the age of 81. In 1996 he and Joan moved from Devon to Bath to spend more time with their family and enjoy a new environment.
W/O Bob Hood-Morris – 1337519, 207 Squadron, was born on October 6th 1914. He died on November 16th 2009 aged 95.
He is survived by his wife Joan to whom he was married for 67 years, a daughter and three grandchildren.