Obituary: Dennis Morris, from North Walsham, passionate about the heritage of RAF Coltishall

Dennis Morris at former RAF Coltishall.

Dennis Morris at former RAF Coltishall. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

When former Battle of Britain station RAF Coltishall closed in 2006, Dennis Morris joined the ranks of those passionate about preserving its heritage.

Mr Morris, who has died aged 65, was a frequent letter writer to the EDP and North Norfolk News, explaining his vision of a heritage centre at the base, with conducted tours, a museum, air days with visiting old aircraft, and an education centre.

A self-taught and painstaking researcher, he scoured books, the internet, spoke to historians, and tracked down eye witnesses and descendants to find out the human stories behind wartime life at RAF Coltishall.

The information he had amassed filled a cupboard at his home in Harmer Close, North Walsham, and he dreamed on having it published one day.

His researches included the tragic tale of Spitfire pilots 22-year-old Ft Sgts Alex Buglass, and Joe Hollingworth, killed on July 29 1943 when their aircraft collided in mid-air over farmland near Sco Ruston Hall, where Hollingworth and his pregnant wife Jean were billeted.

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In typical style, Mr Morris tracked down the farmhand, then 14, who had been working nearby, and Hollingworth's then unborn son, David, so that he could record the facts as accurately as possible.

Born in North Walsham, Mr Morris moved to Wroxham as a boy and attended Hoveton Secondary Modern School.

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He later trained as a motor mechanic and in the 1990s started his own business, in Felmingham, restoring classic Jaguars. It foundered in the recession and he then dedicated his time to research.

Mervyn Cousens, chairman of The RAF Station Coltishall Heritage Trust, said Mr Morris had been determined that the former base should be remembered in a 'respectful and genuine way,' deeply feeling the sacrifices of those connected with its past.

'He was 100pc behind me and my heritage trust colleagues,' Mr Cousens added.

'He shared most of his research with me and my colleagues and we had agreed that myself and the trust would help him collate and transfer his hand-written transcripts ready to get his records published.

'Sadly his good friend Denis Payne who almost everyone in North Walsham knew and loved, had also recently passed away, and one of my endearing memories was being with them here on the base whilst a discussion was ensuing regarding where a plane had crash-landed near Westwick Arch. It was almost like being there as arms were waving and pointing at the 'Arch' (demolished in 1981) and where the old road was, even down to what species the trees were.

'I will sadly miss his massive enthusiasm, tenacity and highly-valuable input.'

Mr Morris leaves a widow, Ann, a son, Michael, step-daughter Elaine, and three grandchildren. His funeral has already taken place.

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