Brigadier William Kenneth Morrison
DSO (1917) MB ChB (Ed 1913) DMRE (Camb 1932)
2 Aug 1891 [Plymouth Devon] – 20 Feb 1978 [Edinburgh]
Brigadier William Kenneth Morrison was the son of Honorary Captain and Quartermaster William Morrison Army Medical Service and Mary Ann Morrison, nee Grace, from Guernsey and youngest daughter of Captain James Grace of the Mercantile Marine. He was educated at James Gillespie School Edinburgh. In 1902, he passed a competitive examination for a Burg Bursary to George Watson's College. He attended the University of Edinburgh as a Carnegie student and graduated MB ChB Edinburgh in 1913. He was married to Annie Beatrice, daughter of Mr J Runciman.
In July 1913, he was commissioned Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps having passed a competitive entrance examination when 21 candidates applied for just five places. The highest mark was scored by Ernest Wentworth Wade of University College Bristol with 562 marks; the lowest was that of Henry Charles Deans Rankin of Glasgow University with 550 marks. W K Morrison was placed third with 554 marks. From October 1913 to March 1914, he was seconded from the RAMC as House Surgeon to Professor Alexis Thomson Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
On 11 August 1914, he mobilized as the Regimental Medical Officer of XVth Royal Field Artillery Vth Division. He was wounded at Le Cateau on 26 August. He returned to duty in November 1914, was posted to MaryHill Glasgow and served as President of the Recruiting Medical Board.
In May 1916, he was appointed OC 2nd Motor Ambulance Convoy (MAC) Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force which was a gift from the Cinema Trade to the Secretary for War. The Motor Ambulance Convoy was formed in the First World War under the command of RAMC officers. There were additionally three medical officers for duty with three detachments, an ASC officer who served as Company Officer to a named company and who was responsible for pay, records and discipline of the ASC other ranks, and another ASC officer in charge of the Workshop.
On 1 June 1916, the 23rd MAC Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force arrived in Basrah. When their Star Motor Ambulances were received it was soon discovered that the metal of the front axle was not strong enough for the very heavy vehicles on the desert roads, resulting in 22 ambulances breaking down. Lighter Ford Ambulances arrived with the 33rd MAC on 10 October 1916 and reached the Advanced Base on 7 November 1916. On 7 December 1916, Captain Joseph Wilfred Houston OC 33rd MAC fell ill and was invalided; command of 33rd MAC passed on to Captain W K Morrison on 26 December 1916.
On 2 November 1918, Lt Col George Goslett Delap ADMS Persian Lines of Communication Kermanshah wrote:
The 33rd MAC under Captain W K Morrison DSO RAMC during September and October 1918 carried out the greater part of evacuations from Nor Perforce and along Persian Line of Communication a distance of over 600 miles of exceptionally difficult mountainous country at the same time leading stores, personnel and equipment with 50 worn out Ford Ambulances. It was chiefly due to the energy and resource inculcated by Captain Morrison in all ranks that a serious breakdown was averted.
When Sir George R McRobert, reviewing R Campbell Begg's book Surgery on trestles, a saga of suffering and triumph asserted that
the motorized ambulance performed such prodigious feats, Morrison was quick to praise the Army Service Corps drivers and workshop staff.
I do not think enough credit has ever been given to the Army Service Corps supply units, whose returning empty vans almost certainly carried as many wounded and sick casualties as the medical motor ambulance units in Mesopotamia.
Brigadier W K Morrison was DDMS Malta Command during the Blitz. At one time, the whole garrison was laid out with sandfly fever. When King George V asked him in Malta in June 1943 whether he had any concerns, Morrison expressed his fear of sandfly fever incapacitating the troops lying in the ditches waiting for the invasion of Sicily. The king answered that it was only a very mild disease; to which the DDMS replied
yes sir, but in Kirkuk, in 1920, almost the whole garrison were laid out with it.
Brigadier W K Morrison left the services in September 1947. He became consultant radiologist Grimsby Group of Hospitals until 1956, when he finally retired to Edinburgh. He edited the autobiography of his father's service in the Army Hospital Corps as Lieutenant of Orderlies and then as Quartermaster. He died at Edinburgh on 20 February 1978 after a brief illness at the age of 86 years.
25 July 1913 Appointed Lieutenant RAMC. Obtained 554 marks at the competitive examination for a commission in the RAMC held in London in July 1913. As he was in possession of certificates obtained in the Officers Training Corps, he was awarded service marks under paragraph 71 of the Regulations for the Officers Training Corps.
1913–31 Mar 1914 Junior house officer on secondment to The Royal Infirmary Edinburgh. Joined the RAMC as Lieutenant on Probation in April 1914.
6 Aug 1914 Deployed with the British Expeditionary Force in France as RMO XVth Bde RFA. Was in the retreat from Mons and was wounded in action at Le Cateau on 26 August 1914 and invalided.
30 Mar 1915 Promoted Captain RAMC. Medical officer in charge of recruits unit at Scotstoun Races Barracks Glasgow.
1916–1918 Served with the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. Was present at the advance to relieve the Kut Garrison. In 1917, he was awarded the DSO in theatre while in command of 23rd Motor Ambulance Convoy. He had been given the command when two prospective commanding officers fell ill. When a new Ford Convoy 33rd MAC arrived in December 1916 in Basrah, their OC, Captain J W Houston RAMC fell ill, and the command was offered to Captain W K Morrison.
25 Aug 1917 London Gazette: Appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
2 Nov 1917 Mentioned in the despatch of Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude Comumanding-in-Chief Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty.
29 Oct 1918 Captain Morrison was relieved of his command by DADMS Hugh Given Robertson for complaining to Army Headquarters that the Ford Ambulance was not a good vehicle for continuous use on mountain roads and that what was needed were heavy Gate change type of ambulances like the Vauxhalls. He was sent as an ordinary reinforcement to 18th Division 1st Corps Mosul.
1 Jan 1919 Reverted to Home Establishment.
Feb 1919 Posted to York, Northern Command.
1920–1921 Returned to Mesopotania and commanded a small hospital in Kirkuk.
1921–1923 Served in India and the Far East.
Commanded the Station Hospital Belgaum and was also medical officer of the Officers Senior School.
1923 Attended the RAMC Captains to Major course. Decided to study radiology as a specialty.
1924 Specialist in radiology. Wrote papers on the radiological diagnoses of Cysticercosis.
Was recommended by Sir William MacArthur to General Fawcus for a Brevet Lieut Colonelcy for his work on cysticercosis.
1924–1926 Radiologist, Royal Herbert Hospital Woolwich.
25 July 1925 Promoted Major RAMC.
12 Nov 1926 Arrived from England.
6 Feb 1927 Relates that when he exposed the extreme dishonesty of the RAMC Company Cook, the DDMS took no subsequent action so as to preserve the reputation of the RAMC.
I was shot off to China, four hours after the second dishonesty of the cook had been discovered by me.
1927–1929 Left Malta for service with the Shanghai Defence Force. Served in Hong Kong for 3 years.
1930–1931 Radiologist, Cambridge Military Hospital Aldershot.
1931–1932 Transferred at his own request as Radiologist to Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich.
1932–1933 Passed the Diploma in Medical Radiology and Electrology (DMRE) from Cambridge in 1932.
Became Radiologist at Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Millbank.
1933–1934 Served in India. Posted as a radiologist to Secunderabad.
1934–1936 Radiologist BMH Trimulgherry and Bangalore.
1 Jan 1935 Brevet Lieutenant Colonel RAMC.
31 July 1935 Lieutenant Colonel RAMC.
Aug 1936–1937 Posted as a radiologist to Poona, where following the death of Major Philip Adams Opie from a broken neck after falling off his horse, took command of the Combined Military Hospital Poona until the arrival of a senior officer. Acted as medical officer to Lord Brabourne, Governor of Poona.
1937–1941 Posted to Simla where he became one of the Honorary Surgeons to the Viceroy India (VHS).
Was DADMS AHQ India.
1 Mar 1941 Promoted Colonel L/RAMC. Commanding Officer BMH Karachi.
1942 Assistant Director of Medical Services (ADMS) HQ West Scotland (Glasgow Area) Bridge of Weir.
27 Nov 1942 Arrived from England. Succeeded Colonel Arthur Stanley Heale as Deputy Director of Medical Services (DDMS) HQ Malta Command.
1943 DDMS HQ Malta Command.
1 Jan 1944 Left for Egypt, to take up appointment as DDMS British Troops Egypt.
Colonel Cuthbert Scales succeeded him as DDMS Malta.
10 Jan 1944 Acting Brigadier L/RAMC.
1944–1945 DDMS Palestine.
13 Mar–7 May 1944 Colonel W K Morrison (Temporary Brigadier) was granted the Acting Rank of Major General L/RAMC. Was DDMS British Troops in Egypt and Acting DMS MEF.
10 July 1944–23 Jan 1946 Temporary Brigadier L/RAMC. DMS MEF.
Mar 1945 Colonel W K Morrison having completed four years in the rank, was retained on the Active List supernumerary.
1945–1946 Assistant Director of Medical Services HQ North Midland District Nottingham.
20 Sept 1947 Retired on retired pay and was granted the honorary rank of Brigadier.
Oct 1951 Colonel (Honorary Brigadier) W K Morrison ceased to belong to the Reserve of Officers having attained the age limit of liability to recall.
1958 Retired completely from civilian practice.
1975 Resident at 11 Mayfield Terrace Edinburgh.
- TNA:WO 177/1517, War Diaries No 57 Field Hygiene March 1941 to June 1944.
- Entry No: 855. Drew R. 1968. Commissioned Officers in the Medical Services of the British Army 1690–1960. Vol II Roll of Officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1898–1960, London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library.
- Succession Books Vol XXIV, Returns of statement of service of RAMC Officers.
- Obituary, Br Med J (1978) 1:724 (Published 18 March 1978).
- TNA:WO 177/1360, War Diaries No 90 General Hospital April 1940 to September 1946.
- Captain William Morrison (1840–1919) Glimpses of Life from within from 1860 to 1985. J Roy Army Med Corps (1974); 120:4–18, 116–129, 176–189, 229–241.
- Captain William Morrison (1840–1919) Glimpses of Life from within from 1860 to 1985. J Roy Army Med Corps (1975); 121:38–52, 87–100, 149–162, 204–219.
- McRobert George R. Book review of Campbell Begg R., Surgery on trestles, a saga of suffering and triumph. Norwich: Jarrod 1967.
- Morrison W K., War in Mesopotamia. Br Med J (1968); 2:434 (Published 18 May 1968).
- Morrison W K., Cysticercosis in twin brothers aged 13 years. Br Med J (1934); 1:13 (Published 6 January 1934).
- Results of competitive examination RAMC. Br Med J (1913); 2:283 (Published 2 August 1913).
- O'Moore C., and Humphris E. M., The VC and DSO Vol III from 1 January 1916 to 12 June 1923.