Brigadier James Ronald (Jumbo) MORRIS, DSO*, Gurkha Rifles

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Skoyen89, Mar 5, 2022.

  1. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I have just finished reading ‘A Signal Honour’ by Robin Painter. He was involved in the first Chindit expedition (Operation Longcloth), the fighting on the Shenam Saddle with 20 Div in 1944 and the drive into Burma with 62 Brigade of 19th Division in 1945. The book is well written, interesting and he was in The Royal Signals so it has some interesting information on the challenges of providing Signals support on campaign.

    Painter is not at all complimentary about his Brigadier in 62 Brigade, James Ronald ‘Jumbo’ Morris of 4/9 Gurkhas. Morris had led ‘Morris Force’ on the Second Chindit campaign and he also quoted Bidwell in ‘The Chindit War’ who described him as ‘overbearing, tactless and authoritarian’ which is along the same lines as Painter found. Is this criticism of Morris repeated elsewhere? What is the view of him and his performance in both the Chindits in 1944 and Burma in 1945.
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  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi SK89,

    There is nothing official in the books and diaries I have read, but the general murmurings and anecdotal tidbits do rather come out on the negative side. As you mention he led Morris Force on Chindit 2 which ended up liaising with American forces close to Myitkhina towards the end of Operation Thursday.

    I have over the years only been able to find one grainy image of Brigadier Morris in a newspaper piece about his award of the DSO. From the Liverpool Echo 20 April 1945:

    Morris J. Jumbo LECHO 20:04:45 copy.jpg
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  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    Are you aware of this? An IWM file (not an online resource) by a RAF officer, the Private Papers of Squadron Leader T P O'Brien DFC:
    From: Private Papers of Squadron Leader T P O'Brien DFC

    Could there be a photo of Brigadier Morris in the book, even the papers?

    His entry on: Officers of the Indian Army 1939-1945 -- M is very limited, no photo and little apart from being commissioned in 1921, in the 9th Gurkhas and then his two Chindit appointments, the 62nd Indian Infantry Brigade 1944-1946. The Wiki for the 62nd Brigade is very thin, although its parent division through WW2 the 19th Indian Infantry Division has a better one: 19th Infantry Division (India) - Wikipedia

    The Official History 'The War Against Japan: The reconquest of Burma' states he left command of the brigade on 3/4/1945.

    John Masters was in the 19th Division, in 1945, as a staff officer. Did he ever mention Morris, presumably in 'The Road Past Mandalay'?
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2022
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  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks for the link David. I have O' Brien's books Out of the Blue and a Moonlight War. They are good reads but my copies have no photographs to illustrate his text. I would need to re-read Out of the Blue to glean O'Brien's feelings towards the Brigadier and to be honest, I have not spent that much time trying to find out more about JR. Morris.

    My forays into researching the second Chindit expedition have only developed as part of my role with the Chindit Society and mostly when answering family enquiries in relation to Operation Thursday.
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  5. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    In a 2008 issue of 'Kukri' there is a possible reference to him:

    I know the wartime NW Frontier remained an active area of operations. I note the newspaper article refers to him serving in North Africa, returning to India.
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  6. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Thanks for all the contributions. It seems Painter was not alone in his views of Morris. I have just dipped into March or Die by Philip Chinnery and in p178 to p187 he is not very complimentary about Morris' leadership of Morris Force on Op Thursday and he also quotes Capt Bill Howe who is critical of Morris.
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    From Dagger Division:

    Morris ex-Dagger Division.jpg
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  8. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Yes, he looks like a bastard. I wonder if he was related to the other Jumbo.

  9. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I have dipped into Out of The Blue by Terence O'Brien who was with Morris Force and next to Morris as his RAF Liason Officer throughout the Second Chindit expedition. He is very critical of Morris throughout the book and the gist of his criticism was that Morris wasn't capable of making independent decisions and when he did make a decision it was either wrong or he changed his mind once it was being implemented. He also gives examples of how Morris was unable to let his senior officers get on with their tasks without interfering in the detail and looking over their shoulder constantly. O'Brien suggests this impacted the effectiveness of Morris Force.

    It would be interesting to see what Peter Cane (commanding 94 Column) made of Morris. He wrote and privately published a small book called Chinese Chindit which has a thread on here.

    O'Brien suggests that Morris would have been more comfortable in a 'normal' infantry role where he was given direction and had to implement it because that was his strength. It was that role that Morris was given in 1945 when he was Brigadier of 62 Brigade in 19th Indian Div. Painter was with him at that time and his criticism is similar to that of O'Brien and Howe (of SOE) who were with Morris in 1944. Masters in 'The Road Past Mandalay' mentions him briefly but doesn't say anything about him. However Morris was given a DSO for his time in charge of 62 Brigade in 1945.
  10. Quarterfinal

    Quarterfinal Well-Known Member

    It would seem Brigadier JR Morris died in 1962 and is buried in All Saints Churchyard, Higher Kinnerton, Flintshire, Wales. His widow died in 1997. The Chester Chronicle of 10 January 1959 features a piece listing a ‘Brigadier James Ronald Morris MC CBE’ of Dunham on the Hill as a nominee for a councillor vacancy. The Liverpool Echo of 26 June1962 carries a memorial notice, but an obituary is yet to be found.
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


    Recommendation for Award for Morris, James Ronald Rank: Acting Brigadier,... | The National Archives
    Reference: WO 373/37/13
    Name Morris, James Ronald
    Rank: Acting Brigadier, Lieutenant Colonel, Sub Major
    Service No: 312 IA.
    Regiment: 9 Gurkha Rifles, 111 Indian Infantry Brigade
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Burma
    Award: Distinguished Service Order
    Date of announcement in London Gazette: 26 April 1945

    JR MORRIS, DSO.png

    111 Indian Infantry Brigade, 3rd Indian Division
    312 IA A/ Brigadier, W/S Lieutenant-Colonel/, Sub. Major James Ronald MORRIS, 9 GURKHA RIFLES now Commanding 111 Indian Infantry Brigade

    This Officer had possibly the most difficult role of all Commanders in Special Force. Isolated on the East bank of the IRRAWADDY with three GURKHA columns, he had no hope of assistance from other Brigades and no Stronghold to fall back on should things go wrong. His task was made no easier by the long distance that supporting and Supply Dropping aircraft had to fly to reach him, while the thunderstorms in the hills on the east side of the IRRAWADDY resulted in a far higher percentage of abortive close support and supply dropping missions than apportioned for other brigades.

    In spite of these handicaps he successfully harried the enemy L of C South of MYITKYINA with the result that few, if any, fresh enemy units moved NORTH of that bank of the river.

    After the SINO AMERICAN descent on MYITKYINA he moved to the bak of the river opposite that town and despite the complete lack of Artillery and air support, put in repeated attacks on enemy dug in in villages on the river bank. These attacks undoubtedly divided the enemy effort in the defence of MYITKYINA and contributed to the fall of that Town.

    He remained at duty though exhausted physically and ridden with daily recurring attacks of malaria until ordered back by the Force Commander.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2022
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  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Bar to DSO
    Recommendation for Award for Morris, James Ronald Rank: Sub Major Service... | The National Archives
    Reference: WO 373/37/81
    Name Morris, James Ronald
    Rank: Sub Major
    Service No: I.A. 312
    Regiment: Gurkha Rifles, 62 Indian Infantry Brigade
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Burma
    Award: Bar to the Distinguished Service Order
    Date of announcement in London Gazette: 03 May 1945

    JR MORRIS Bar to DSO, 1.png
    JR MORRIS Bar to DSO, 2.png

    19th Indian Division, 33 Corps
    312 IA Sub. Major, W/S Lieutenant-Colonel, T/ Brigadier James Ronald MORRIS, GURKHA RIFLES Commanding 62 Indian Infantry Brigade

    For conspicuous leadership & determination in the face of the enemy.

    During the heavy fighting in the IRRAWADDY Bridgehead, between 30 Jan 45 and 5 Feb 45, Brigadier MORRIS’ Brigade held the Eastern Bridgehead in the facer of determined Japanese attacks, pressed home with fanatical disregard of losses.

    Inspired by his determination, coolness and complete disregard for his own personal safety his troops held their positions in spite of their considerable casualties caused by heavy enemy shell, mortar and MG fire. On the occasions when the enemy superior numbers had by weight of fire broken into our positions, his counter attacks, ably organised & planned were successful in ejecting the Japanese.

    At YESHIN, on the 5 Feb 45, our troops were subjected to very heavy & sudden shelling which caused us heavy casualties. By his calmness and courage under this heavy fire Brigadier MORRIS was an inspiring example to all his officers and men and enabled them to deal with all Japanese attacks then and during the night.

    The next day, when conveying his casualties back through thick jungle to the main Bridgehead, our troops were continually attacked by the Japanese at very close range in the thick jungle. By his personal courage under fire & his skilful handling of his troops, Brigadier MORRIS was able to bring his column through, bringing in all their own killed and wounded, and inflicting heavy losses on the Japanese.

    Brigadier MORRIS’ leadership, courage, and determination have been of the highest order, and are unquestionably a fine inspiration to his Brigade.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2022
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  13. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Thanks dbf. It is hard to reconcile the DSO recommendations with the views of the witnesses on the ground.
  14. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Being a bit of a bastard doesn't necessarily correlate with inefficiency, incompetence or, indeed, luck, but there doesn't seem to be great deal of source material. It's possible that the histories of the battalions in 62 Ind Inf Bde might mention him. The other angle is how much higher authority and their good or bad plans contributed to Morris's decisions?

    I had a quick skim through Cane earlier. Initially, there wasn't much mention of Morris so it looked like he might be being damned by faint coverage. There is a bit more detail later on. Cane sharply criticises other personalities but I've seen nothing yet where he comes down on Morris.

    He does point out that Morris was suffering from malaria in the later stages of the Morrisforce.
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  15. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I have Road Past Mandalay, and there is no mention of Morris at 62nd Brigade.
  16. Quarterfinal

    Quarterfinal Well-Known Member

    His CBE was Gazetted on 6 June 1946 at:
    To be Additional Commanders of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order:—
    Brigadier (temporary) James Ronald MORRIS, D.S.O. (IA 312), 9th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

    but I haven’t found corroboration for an MC (#10 above) yet. Perhaps pre-War? As Skoyen89 alludes above - together with dbf’s citations - there seems rather more to this officer than some literature would suggest. I was particularly struck by the “Brigadier MORRIS was able to bring his column through, bringing in all their own killed and wounded, and inflicting heavy losses on the Japanese.”
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2022
  17. idler

    idler GeneralList

    No MC mentioned in the Indian Army List Supplement 1941. His campaigns are listed as Waziristan 1919-21 and 1921-24, and NWF 1936-37

    From 9 Gurkha Rifles - A Regimental History 1817-1947, Morris was among the group of IA officers sent to the UK as mountain warfare advisers so he may or may not have been one of the 8 out of 19 (according to Prendergast) that got to Norway. Morris rejoined the1/9 before their move to Basra in Oct 1941. Regarding 1/9 GR in Tunisia:
    You'd think that would be the fast-track to popularity...

    Before retiring at the end of 1946, Morris was commandant of the 9 GR Regimental Centre from May 1946. He's listed as CBE DSO - no MC.
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