James Fitz Morris collection
James Fitz Morris
Letters, certificates, photographs
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.