James Fitz Morris collection

Primary maker
James Fitz Morris
Production date
1897-21st Century
Letters, certificates, photographs

Object Detail

Name/title notes
Former pupil of Laurieston School. Passed Civil Service entrance exams on leaving school but deferred his entry preferring to join to enlist in the army early in the First World War. He initially served as a Motor Despatch Rider with the Highland Light Infantry but was promoted into the Royal Flying Corps after only 3 months where he trained as a pilot. In June 1915 he was mentioned in despatches.

After recovering from a serious accident in August 1916 he returned to duty as in instructor at Harlaxton aerodrome near Grantham in Lincolnshire. During this time he was promoted to Captain. He was back in France by July 1917 and soon began to rack up victories against enemy planes – by the end of August he had amassed 5 victories which qualified him as an ‘ace’
In Sep 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross. In Jan 1918 he was awarded a Belgian Croix de Guerre and a Bar to his Military Cross. He was also recommended for a DSO.

In Spring 1918 he was back in Britain. By this time he had been officially credited with 14 victories. His unofficial tally seems to have been between 29 and 31.

While at home on leave he was presented with a Sword of Honour and a gold watch by the inhabitants of Polmont.

It was then decided he should be sent to the USA as part of the as part of the British Air Mission under the command of Brigadier General Charles F Lee. They, along with some American pilots, were to take part in a touring air displays of the USA in order to drum up support for the war and the air services in particular. During the exhibition at Cincinnati, Ohio he was killed in an air crash shortly after take off from Western Hills Golf Course, Cincinnati. Although, the cause of the crash was initially attributes to him fainting at the controls, it appears that the real cause was the mechanical failure of his Sopwith Camel aeroplane.

The tour had attracted huge public interest and the people of Cincinnati reacted to Fitz Morris's death with great sympathy. Due to the dangers caused by German submarines it was decided not to send his body back home until the end of the war. In the meantime his body was laid to rest with full military honours at the the family tomb of the Groesbecks, a prominent Cincinnati family. His funeral cortege was followed by 4,000 mourners with approximately 250,000 lining the route of the funeral procession.

A year later his body was repatriated and he was buried at Polmont Cemetery, again with full military honours.
Level of current record
Primary maker
Production date
1897-21st Century
94 items
Archives finding aids
This catalogue entry provides a summary of the whole collection. Please use the search tools on the Collections Browser to look for information about individual items in this collection.
Open - no restriction on access
Accession number