John Edward Morris was born in Shrewsbury in 1906. He has proved elusive in the 1911 census but we know he was not living with his parents at that point as his mother was in service in Surrey (working under her maiden name) and his father was staying with his step-mother-in-law in Frankwell.
According to his niece, Diana, his sister, May, “along with the rest of the family, doted on him” and thought him “a wonderful boy, very soft-hearted. In particular, he rescued stray cats and befriended an old woman who lived nearby and kept about 20 moggies in some degree of squalor. Apparently he adopted the ugliest cat in the world, which he named 'O Flanagan Beauty Darling'. My mother also remembered him sitting up all night to nurse a sick puppy and almost drowning in a bog while picking flowers for her”.
When he first began work he was apprenticed to Shuker & Son, ironmongers, of Pride Hill in Shrewsbury. He later became a commercial traveller for Morgan & Sons, builders in Hounslow, and, although he met his wife, Florence Browning, in Shrewsbury and they married there in June 1927, he seems to have already been based in London by the mid-20s. His home address at the time of their marriage was 10 Rutland Street, Brompton Rd, SW7 – in the heart of Knightsbridge.
“May's view of Flo was that she was cold, and she didn't like Flo's mother, 'Old Mrs Browning'. However, I suspect that no-one would have been good enough for the beloved brother”. (Diana)
The family lived in the Hounslow area for over 10 years, Jean, Doug and Joan all being born there, but war interrupted life for them as for everybody. Jack took his family back to Shrewsbury in September 1939 (where Gerald was born) and then joined up as a Lance Corporal driver in the RASC.
Jack is on the left in the 1940 photo below
He later told Doug how the British Expeditionary Force was split up and there was much confusion. Jack and four mates became separated from their unit and made their way towards Dunkirk. They spent several days hiking across French countryside, including crossing rivers although he could not swim. He also told of finding an empty chateau with wine in the cellar, where the five soldiers drank their fill, fortifying themselves for the remaining journey. They reached the beach and had to wade out, on a rope, to a ship anchored in the bay. At some point during the evacuation Jack sustained a head wound that put him in hospital for 3 months. He was invalided out of the Army and went to work as a civilian driver at RAF High Ercall.
After the war Jack returned to Shukers as assistant manager in the building department. He gradually rose to the position of manager and was very involved in civic life, despite Flo’s refusal to accompany him to social events that would perhaps have helped to further his career. Some of this professional networking took place at his favourite pub, the Beacon.
In 1951 Joan died, due to the heart defect she had suffered from birth. Jack was devastated by her death, despite having always known she was not expected to live beyond her early teens.
Jack’s health also began to deteriorate. He had suffered a cancerous growth years before and had an eye removed but the cancer had gradually spread. He eventually had to give up work and soon became an invalid, losing weight and strength. He died on Valentine’s Day 1955.
Flo was left a widow at the age of 49. When asked in later life why she had never remarried, she replied, “Jack was the only man for me”.