Arthur Theodore “Ted” Morgan was born March 18, 1915 to John Lindsey and Cora Sophronia Melton Morgan in the Cane Creek area of Mitchell County. Several official documents associated with him indicate Clarrissa. His brothers included George Bruce, Forest, and Marcus Quinten and his sisters were Gladys and Mabel Verna.
According to family members and friends he was “witty and fearless, one who was born to fly.” His brother said he allowed nothing to interfere with his ambition to become a pilot.
Ted graduated from Bowman High School in Bakersville and soon headed to New Jersey. He attended the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics when the School was located at the Newark, New Jersey airport. Later the School moved to New York’s LaGuardia and today is known as the Vaughn College of Aeronautics in Queens, New York.
He apparently enlisted in the United States Army in 1937 at age 22 where he served for 2 years.
In 1939 he and Gertrude Johnson, daughter of Trotto Truett Johnson and Phebe Ann McKinney Johnson from Toecane were married. Their daughter Jacqueline “Jackie” was born April 10, 1940 in Toecane.
Ted enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on November 15, 1939 and was sent to Langley Field VA. For yet to be determined reasons, Ted decided to join the Royal Canadian Air Force which he did on June 6, 1941. One family member said that he did so because the US Air Force would not let him fly as he wanted.
On his RCAF Attestation Paper, under children, he listed Jacqueline Morgan with a birth date of 4/10/40. Under “Detail of any Naval, Military, or Air Force Services” he put “none.”
He received his wings as a bomber pilot in November 1941. On December 5, 1941 he was transferred from the Royal Canadian Air Force to the Royal Air Force in the UK as a bomber pilot. In January 1942 he was assigned to No. 296 Squadron RAF as Flight Sergeant Pilot.
This was a critical time for the Royal Air Force and one in which a new endeavor involving glider aircraft was initiated. It is obvious that Ted demonstrated great skill and promise to have been selected to be a member of the first group of pilots in this new squadron with a new mission.
No. 296 Squadron was formed at Ringway Airport near Manchester on 25 January 1942 from the Glider Exercise Unit as an airborne forces unit, equipped with obsolete Hawker Hectors and Hawker Harts. Under Group Captain Sir Nigel Norman the unit moved to RAF Netheravon in Wiltshire to concentrate on glider training with the Airspeed Horsa. Ted began flying the Hawkers and the gliders.
While it was not Ted’s future to contribute, the 296 was a squadron in the 38 RAF wing which was destined to play important roles in WWII including Operation Freshman. The codename given to the British airborne operation conducted in November 1942. It was the first British airborne operation conducted using Airspeed Horsa gliders, with its target the Vemork Norsk Hydro chemical plant in Telemark, Norway which produced heavy water for Nazi Germany. This operation was the basis for the 1965 British movie, The Heroes of Telemark and Neal Bascomb’s 2016 book, Winter Fortress.
The 296 specifically also was a critical element in the D-Day invasion.
An official document from RAF Military Records unit indicates that Ted died “from post operation excision mediastinal tumour.” Mediastinal tumors are growths that form in the area of the chest that separates the lungs. This area, called the mediastinum, is surrounded by the breastbone in front, the spine in back, and the lungs on each side. In general, mediastinal tumors are rare. Mediastinal tumors are usually diagnosed in patients aged 30 to 50 years (Ted was 27). Most of the growths are often discovered on a chest X-ray that is performed for another reason.
From a document written by one of Ted’s pilot colleagues, W. E. Wordsworth, he recounts the events which led up to Ted entering the hospital. He had been flying a glider and as he came in for a landing something went wrong and it crashed. Ted was found to be ok; however, he had been complaining of chest pains which apparently the crash aggravated. A week later official documents indicate that he was on leave and went to London. One morning he was found in great pain by a hotel house maid. He was taken to Middlesex Hospital where the doctor later said he must have been in great pain for over a month when he examined him and found the tumor. Surgery was performed to remove the dangerous growth, but Ted died a 3.50 AM on 9 August 1942.
While his commanding officer admits “that it is small comfort,” he assured the parents that Ted performed his tasks “both cheerfully and efficiently” and was highly thought of by him and “was extremely popular among his fellow pilots.” Again, the Wordsworth document clearly indicates the admiration the other pilots had for him and his flying ability.
For obvious reasons, the family were notified of his death and then told of the arrangements that were necessary under the circumstances. The services took place at the RAF Brookwood Cemetery on 13 August at 2 pm conducted by RAF Chaplain Squadron Leader Perratt. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack and carried by men of the RAF. Wreaths were sent from the Commanding Officer and Officers of the 296, the Sergeants, the President of the Service Institute on behalf of the Airmen, and from two friends, Sergeants Goshorn and Wordsworth. A temporary wooden cross was placed pending a permanent memorial. The family was sent condolences from King George.
Ted’s death was a great loss to his unit, the war effort, and his family. He rests in the RAF Brookwood Cemetery in Surry, 30 miles from London.