b. 1923 | d. 1989 | Royal Air Force
Ted Morgan served in the Royal Air Force during World War Two and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve for several years after. He trained as a pilot in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and was posted to a number of sites in the UK. His time in the USA contributed to a lifelong love of jazz music and the planes he flew in the RAF became the subject of many of his paintings later in life!
This account illustrates the contributions made by one family in West Wales during World War Two, focusing on one member of the family, Ted Morgan. It was compiled and submitted by one of Ted’s sons.
Leading Aircraftman Ted Morgan, 1942
The white flash on his cap indicates that he was an
under training cadet pilot.
WEH “Ted” Morgan was born at 69 Waterloo Road, Neyland on February 23rd, 1923. His father, Stanley Morgan, worked for the Great Western Railway in Pembroke Dock station and his mother, Edith (née Gwilliam), was a seamstress. Edith’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all worked in the Naval Dockyards in Pembroke.
When Stanley was promoted to Stationmaster in Whitland, the family moved from Neyland to Whitland and Ted was accepted into Whitland Grammar School. Much later, Ted recalled constructing an Anderson (air raid) Shelter with his father in the garden of their family home, Arfon, following the announcement of the outbreak of World War Two.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the family regularly spent time at Bayside, a house built by Ted’s grandfather, Edward, in 1887 and located behind the sea wall on Pendine Sands.
After the war, Ted’s mother and father ran Bayside as a guest house and those who stayed there included John Laurie of Dad’s Army fame.
Throughout the war, Ted’s father, Stanley, kept the troop and freight trains running through Whitland Station.
Pendine and World War Two
Things changed when the War Office requisitioned Bayside in 1940 and a senior officer from the “Establishment,” Major Reeves, and his family were installed “for the duration.” The house was handed back to the Morgan family at the end of the war.
Some 50 years later, one of Ted’s sons met Major Reeve’s son who vividly remembered his childhood in Bayside and Pendine with his father during WWII. After this meeting, Major (later Colonel) Reeve’s son paid a visit to Bayside.
The “Establishment” was (and still is) the local name given to the Inter-Service Small Arms Experimental Establishment which had been transferred from Hythe in Kent to Pendine in 1940 to escape the bombing in southeast England. Later, the site would come to be known officially as MOD Pendine.
The Beach Hotel – located a few houses away from Bayside, on the corner of the road running through Pendine – was initially turned into the headquarters of the firing range. The HQ was later moved to Llanmiloe, the nearby hamlet where it remains today.
During the war, extensive sea wall and beach defences were constructed on Pendine’s long beach and around the point to Morfa Bychan, itself surrounded by Ragwen and Gilwern points.
Even today, the remains of a concrete wall used during trials on May 10th, 1944 can be seen. The purpose was to establish new methods of breaching sea walls so that they could be climbed by tanks in preparation for the allied invasion of Normandy – which took place less than one month later!
Joining the RAF
Ted was a talented artist and sportsman and, after leaving Whitland Grammar School in 1941, he enrolled as an undergraduate at the Welsh School of Architecture, University of Wales. There, he joined the Cardiff University Air Squadron.
He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in Penarth in late 1941 and was placed on deferred entry, before being called to the Air Crew Reception Centre at St. John’s Wood in London. After initial training at No. 2 Initial Training Wing (ITW) Paignton in Devon, Ted was posted for “grading” to No. 22 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School, located at Marshall’s Flying Training School in Cambridge, where he took his first solo flight in a De Havilland Tiger Moth.
The cadets were billeted in the halls normally occupied by the students of Downing College, Cambridge University.
Kemys Morgan, 1919-1989
Ted’s elder brother, Kemys, also served in the Royal Air Force and by the time Ted enlisted, he had already completed one operational tour in Bomber Command during the Battle of France in May 1940, Battle of Britain and then daylight attacks on the invasion ports in Northern France during the frantic summer and winter of 1940.
He later flew a second daylight tour after D-Day on the B.25 Mitchell IIIs of 98 Squadron, flying from captured airfields in Belgium and then Germany. Kemys remained in the RAF until 1955, serving in Malaya (in modern day Malaysia) and was decorated in both World War Two and Malaya.
Pilot Training in the USA
Ted and a friend from the Cardiff University Air Squadron by the name of Owen “Ossie” Phillips were posted together to the USA as Cadet Pilots.
Ted and Ossie met up with hundreds of other young men in Greenock on the Clyde and embarked on the speedy Queen Mary to make the week-long voyage across the U-Boat infested waters of the Atlantic. It was late April, 1943.
Not even knowing where they were heading, the RAF cadets safely arrived in Montreal, Canada and were loaded on large buses and taken down to the RAF Aircrew Dispersal Centre, Moncton. It was only at this point that Ted and Ossie learned they were going to be trained as pilots in America.
A train ride lasting several days followed, taking them across the Canadian border into the USA, travelling down to the mid-west and ending up in the Dustbowl of America, in a small town called Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Ponca City had one main street going through it with a railway station, swimming lido, library, milk parlors and the Marlands Mansion. The influence of the Ponca Tribe featured heavily in goods in stores and on road signs. Arriving at the railway station, Ted, Ossie and the other cadets were quickly transferred onto large, yellow buses and taken to the aerodrome, located on the periphery of the airfield and No. 6 British Flying Training School (BFTS).
No. 6 BFTS featured a runway, main hangar, control tower and brand new, pine-clad instruction huts, dining room and barracks. The sun and heat in May was something the British were not prepared for so it was a dream to find not just constant warmth but also fresh fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice and completely non-rationed food, which came after the four years of deprivation back home. The two young men hailing from southwest Wales kept pinching themselves.
There were 80 cadets on the course plus 20 American cadets. Flying instructors were American civilian pilots although there was an RAF contingent on the station with the RAF Commanding Officer being Wing Commander Charles Ball. Ted’s primary training (lasting 70 hours) was on the PT 17A Boeing Stearman.
Successful cadet pilots then moved on to advanced training on the North American AT6A Harvard, completing around a further 130 hours. Ted graduated with his Pilot’s Wings on December 5th, 1943 and was one of 19 cadets commissioned as Pilot Officers, with the other 80% being made Sergeants.
Aerial photograph of the civilian-operated aerodrome in Ponca City, Oklahoma which housed No. 6 British Flying Training School, 1943
Social Life as an RAF Cadet
The cadets quickly found a welcoming and generous local population living in the town outside the base and many cadets were “adopted” by local families. For some, those friendships – forged in a time of great adversity – lasted a lifetime.
Cadets were met outside the gates by local families and by girls in their cars, waiting to whisk them off to a dance or a picnic or to simply take them home to meet their parents.
Ted was one of those also keen to sample life further afield and travel America. He hitched lifts on lorries to take him to places like Kansas City and Wichita where he got to see his jazz heroes including Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra!
Some 40 years later, he would talk about the wartime shows in the USA on radio programmes, including in a regular jazz slot on Radio Hereford and Worcester.
By the time Ted arrived in May 1943, the gravestones of young men killed in accidents at the flying school were already being embedded in the cemetery a short distance from the airfield. Learning to fly during the War was hazardous for both the cadet pilots and their instructors.
Just a few weeks into the basic flying training course, Ted’s good friend – and former Cardiff University student – Owen “Ossie” Phillips was killed. His PT 17A Boeing Stearman (painted yellow and blue) crashed at the end of the runway, killing young Ossie and his still relatively young instructor.
More than 75 years later, 19 year old Leading Aircraftman Owen W. Phillips (RAF No. 1653024) continues to lie buried in the sun of the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Ponca City – a long, long way from his home in Cymru!
A plane damaged in a flying training accident at No. 6
British Flying Training School, Ponca City, Oklahoma, 1943
Ted’s American Instructors
Ted’s instructor on the PT 17A was Lloyd O’Sims, a former crop duster pilot whom Ted described as “grandfatherly.” Lloyd “nursed” his young pupils through their primary stage of training.
Ted remembered the shock to his system, however, when he graduated to the advanced stage of training and found that his instructor, Kenny Clapham, was like himself, little more than a boy but who had been flying since the age of 15 years.
The first time Ted experienced a low-flying in the Harvard, Kenny, sitting in the rear seat of the aeroplane screamed “get the lead out of your **** and get down out of the clouds.” After Ted had landed, Kenny got out of the plane visibly shaking: “I didn’t mean that low!“
Despite their entirely different approaches, both Kenny and Lloyd were recognised as being highly effective in obtaining positive results.
Ted’s Link Trainer (instrument flying) instructor at Ponca City was Lillian Taylor who remembered Kenny Clapham fondly in an interview some 40 years later.
“Kenny Clapham was the youngest instructor at Ponca City, a natural pilot who had grown up around Waukegan, Illinois. He started flying when he was 15 years old and had well over 3,000 flying hours by the time he came to Ponca. Kenny could fly better than anyone I ever knew and after the war he then instructed in the US Air Force on jets and stayed in aviation all his life.”
– Lillian Taylor –
But Lillian Taylor (1921-2007) was herself an incredible woman who had an amazing life. As a small child, she used to watch the planes flying above. One of her ambitions was to meet Amelia Earhart – which she did – and she learned to fly before she learned to drive a car. During World War II, Lillian became a Link Trainer instructor at the No. 6 British Flying Training School, Ponca City.
Lillian continued to enjoy her connection to the Royal Air Force throughout her life and, for over 20 years, served as president of the No. 6 British Flying Training School (Veterans) Association, enjoying the travel and the many reunions with her former cadets which were held all over the world. Lillian was surrounded by her students as each celebrated their memories. A highlight of her life was the opening of the American Air Museum in Duxford, England in 1997, where she was involved in a presentation with the Queen, Prince Philip and Charlton Heston.
In 1984 or 1985, Lillian and her husband, Harold, visited Ted and stayed with him for a few days at his home in Whitbourne, well over 40 years after she had taught him to fly on instruments. Back then, Lillian was just 22 years old!
After the war, Lillian was employed for a time with the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and was instrumental in establishing the Aviation History Museum of Ponca City. Also, as a former flight training instructor for Braniff Airlines, she was able to obtain memorabilia for the museum. Ted contributed an original painting of an AT6A Harvard in flight to the museum where it is on display today.
Lillian received many awards including Pioneer Women: Museum Woman of the Year in 2003 which, in the USA, is an honour bestowed upon distinguished women who have made significant achievements in their profession and in their communities.
Chrissie and Rita Morgan
Ted’s two sisters, Chrissie and Rita, both served as nurses during World War Two.
For Chrissie (1921-1985), her work led to love and marriage as she became a wartime bride of an injured Canadian serviceman, Richard Arkwright. After the war, Chrissie emigrated with their baby son, Stan, to Richard’s picturesque home village of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
Rita (1926-2014) continued with her career in nursing and was, for several decades, the District Nurse for Tumble, Cross Hands and surrounding area in Carmarthenshire.
Back in the UK
On the return journey across the Atlantic Ocean, which was again on the RMS Queen Mary, Ted stood on guard outside the cabin of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was also a passenger on the liner.
At a memorial for Ted in 1990, another Ponca City graduate from the same course, Jack Hastings, recalled the trip and carrying out guard duty for the Prime Minister with him.
Back in the UK, Ted was posted on a succession of advanced flying courses and on Beam Approach training on single and twin engine aircraft at stations including Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Chipping Norton and Halfpenny Green where he flew Ansons, Oxfords, Wellingtons, Lancasters and Stirlings.
Frustrated at a lack of active operational opportunities, Ted applied for a transfer to the Fleet Air Arm and was posted to RAF Errol in Scotland for carrier deck-landing training. This was at a time in 1944 when the RAF and FAA were deluged with newly qualified pilots and the class in which Ted had enrolled and started deck landing training was sent back to the RAF. Ted was also disappointed that he never got to fly the gull-winged Corsair, the top FAA fighter of WWII.
With preparations being made for the forthcoming invasion of Normandy by the Allies, there was a need for Glider and Tug pilots for airborne operations. Ted was posted to No. 3 Glider Training Squadron (GTS), stationed at RAF Culmhead, Somerset, where he converted to the twin-engine Armstrong Whitworth Albermarle, the RAF’s first tricycle under-carriage bomber which was being transferred from bombing to glider towing duties at the time.
On one occasion, he flew an Albermarle from Culmhead to Fairwood Common Airfield, near Swansea, with his co-pilot, Squadron Leader Bill Edrich DFC – the England cricket test captain!
Pilot Officer Ted Morgan, Ponca City, 5th December 1944
Taken shortly before he returned to the UK
Wilfred Morgan, 1930-2011
Ted’s younger brother, Wilfred, served his National Service in the British Army, before becoming a toolmaker on the Ministry of Defence Firing Range, the “Establishment” on the Pendine Dunes.
Wilf spent his final years in retirement in Carmarthen.
By now a Flying Officer, Ted was then promoted to Flight Lieutenant and posted to No. 5 Glider Training School at RAF Shobdon in Herefordshire. Here he flew the single engine Miles Master II which towed Hotspur Troop-Carrying Gliders. The Hotspur was used to prepare the airborne troops and their glider pilots for the invasion of Normandy, which of course was then followed by Arnhem and later by the Rhine Crossing in 1945.
The official history on the Shobdon Airfield website states that:
“Altogether 1,345 pilots, 291 gliding instructors and 218 tug pilots were trained at Shobdon during World War Two and they saw action in the major airborne operations, including the landings on Sicily and the Normandy beaches (D-Day) and the battles of Arnhem and the Rhine. No. 5 Glider Training School also holds the record for the most day and night glider training missions, with 96,925 separate glider launches up to 1945.”
As the pilot of the Master tug aircraft, Ted’s job was to tow the Hotspur from the ground into the air. At the appropriate height, he then released the tow rope and broke away. Both he and they would eventually return to base. But one training sortie didn’t go according to plan – with near fatal consequences for Ted.
The pilot of the Hotspur Glider, Ron Kille (1920-2017) remembered Ted speaking to him over the intercom from the Miles Master while trying to reach a sufficient height to set the glider loose. 45 years on, he still recalled Ted’s message being short and to the point. Ted told him that his engine had seized, that he was cutting them loose and that they were to make their own way back to base. Ron knew that without an engine, the Master would “drop like a stone” and he worried that Ted would not make it.
Ron took the glider and its troops back to Shobdon. Upon safely landing, he was met by a furious officer who had charged up on his motorbike telling him off for landing without permission. Ron put this officer straight, got onto the back of his motorbike and went off to look for Ted, fearing the worst.
They eventually found him in a potato field in the Black Mountains, standing by a crashed and very bent Master, with telegraph poles at the edge of the edge of the field having been brought down, but surrounded by three Land Army girls, one of whom had given him an apple. Ron remembers that Ted was facially bloodied but relatively unscathed and they were very relieved to find him alive!
After the war, Dr Ron Kille had a very successful career as a well-known zoologist with Edinburgh University and UNESCO. He continued to fly as a glider pilot and instructor for several decades with the Edinburgh University Gliding Club.
Miles Master II aircraft in flight, 1944
The Miles Master II was used as training and tug glider aircraft by the RAF during World War Two. Ted flew the Master II at No. 5 Glider Training School at RAF Shobdon, Herefordshire in 1945-1945.
To celebrate the end of the war, Ted led a flight of three Miles Master IIs on a “beat-up” of the nearby town of Leominster.
They put on a display of low-level aerobatics and believed they were giving the local populace a treat. As they landed back on the airfield, Ted was met by an armed guard and told to report to the Commanding Officer.
He immediately thought the worst, especially when the CO told him that someone had witnessed the display, taken the registration details of the aircraft involved and phoned to report them for low-flying.
But then he added: “my wife also witnessed your display in the town and asked me to congratulate you on a wonderful display of flying!” The CO then offered him a drink and told him: “My only concern is that my wife is happy!“
“Tiger Force” and Leaving the RAF
Shortly after the end of the war in Europe, Ted received news that he was to join a fighter squadron being equipped with the powerful Hawker Tempest. The plan was for the squadron to be shipped out to the Far East as part of “Tiger Force” but this never happened. The atom bombs dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the Japanese surrender and the RAF cut back dramatically on its need for aircrew.
Tiger Force was a long-range, heavy bomber force, formed in 1945 and made up of units from across the Commonwealth, including the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It was meant to be used to launch attacks on sites in Japan from bases in Europe and was also known as the Very Long Range Bombing Force. Tiger Force was disbanded later that year after the war officially ended in Japan.
Ted was then recruited to become a junior member of a career selection panel, set up by the RAF to interview RAF personnel who were considering remaining in the service after the war. He was given the temporary rank of Acting Squadron Leader so that he didn’t seem too out of place with his more senior colleagues, not least because he was interviewing very experienced and battle-hardened aircrew – including those of senior rank to him!
Ted was encouraged to remain in the RAF after the war by a senior officer who predicted that he would go far but he decided he wanted to get back to his education. So, aged just 23, Ted was demobbed and returned to his studies at Cardiff University. He continued to fly at weekends and during the holidays in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve until 1953 with the substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant.
During this period, Ted flew war-weary Spitfires, Mosquitoes and even the early Jets, Meteors and Vampires. At RAF Bircham Newton, he flew Mosquitoes and Miles Martinets which included the dubious task of towing targets to be shot at by new, green pilots. He flew Spitfires with 614 County of Glamorgan Squadron from Llandow, near Cardiff, in the immediate post-war years.
His last flight as an RAF pilot was in a De Havilland Chipmunk at RAF Exeter in 1953. The Chipmunk was also the first aircraft that Ted’s eldest son flew in as an Air Training Corps Cadet in 1969 from RAF Little Rissington – a coincidence which Ted enjoyed.
During the war, Ted had become a proficient squash player and continued to play regularly until well into his fifties. He decided to move away from architecture and became of the first Educational Psychologists appointed to the (then) still new NHS in the early 1950s.
Ted worked initially at the Royal Western Counties Hospital in Starcross, Devon, and then in “Approved” or “Classifying” Schools in Redhill, Surrey, and Kingswood, Bristol. In 1963, he became Head of Applied Social Studies at Ruskin College, Oxford. He retired in 1981.
A decent jazz pianist himself, Ted always retained an active interest in jazz. He served on committees promoting many jazz concerts including: Acker Bilk, Monty Sunshine, Ken Colyer, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball and many great American “jazzers” from the 1930s and 1940s who were touring the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, in the twilight of their careers.
In the 1980s, Ted personally promoted many jazz concerts in Whitbourne Hall, Worcestershire, often attracting prestigous names to this tiny village. He was also a popular choice for guest appearances on radio, talking about the history of jazz.
Ted retained his pre-war skill as an artist, with several of his paintings being held in museums in the UK and USA. Three of his paintings are held in Wales at the Royal British Legion Club in Whitchurch, Cardiff.
Ted lost his two wives at young ages and largely brought up his children on his own. His first wife, Joan, died during childbirth in 1959, at the age of 28. His second wife, Moira, died of cancer, aged 41, in 1974.
He spent his final years in Whitbourne, a small village on the border between Herefordshire and Worcestershire and died of heart failure in 1989, aged 66. He was survived by his four children and several grandchildren.
“Obituary: Ted Morgan.” Independent. November 30th, 1989.
Morgan, Hugh. “By the Seat of Your Pants!” The Basic Training of RAF Pilots in Rhodesia, Canada, South Africa and the USA during WW2. Kent: Newton Publishers, 1990.
Tribute Archive. “Lillian L. Taylor.” 2007. https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/1711529/Lillian-LTaylor
Shobdon Airfield. “Airfield History.” n.d. https://shobdonairfield.co.uk/aero/airfield-history/
Normandy War Guide. “Pendine’s Atlantic Wall, D-Day Wall Breaching Trials at Ragwen Point.” n.d.