A tribute to my battlefield pal, Brian Morris

Brian, taking a photo as ever, stands near my car. Behind him is St Pierre Vaast Wood near Rancourt. He is looking towards the Moislains ridge. Our last trip together.

Brian Morris, 22 January 1937 – 15 June 2018

It is with much regret that I report the recent death of long-term Western Front Association member Brian Morris, following serious illness. He was a close friend of mine, not least from the many days that we spent together in travelling the battlefields of France and Flanders, and I shall miss his comradeship, dry humour and the ready twinkle in his eye.

Brian, who lived in Solihull in the West Midlands, was an early and stalwart member of the Heart of England Branch of the WFA, and for several years acted as its Treasurer. He also spent the nine years from 2001 as Tours Advisor on the WFA’s Executive Committee and assisted many members with tour plans and travel tips.

A Birmingham man, Brian qualified as a draughtsman and went on be employed as an estimator and later a contracts manager in the building trade. He spent part of his years of national service with the army in Cyprus and I recall a tale of him going out on a patrol, finding on his return to base that his vehicle had acquired a bullet hole.

His long-term interest in the Great War was, as is the case with many of us, inspired by the stories of his relatives and deepened by much reading, research and travel overseas. Brian was also a keen photographer and in most of the pictures that I have of him he is festooned with a camera and equipment, if not actually in the process of taking photos himself. He always volunteered to be the driver of our branch minibus trips (which he also did for the Great War Forum’s trip to Verdun) , but it was when he and I reconnoitred the battlefields in advance of the larger trips that I came to know him well. They were always great fun and it always amazed me that many people in France and Belgium seemed to remember him but never me. I recall that Christiane, the proprietor of the rather curious café-tabac Moderne in Havrincourt, invariably greeted him with “Ah, Monsieur Maurice!”. Clearly, Brian left an impression.

I think I learned more about the Great War on my trips with Brian than in any other way, and for that I owe him a great deal.