“I would like to say one thing, and I shall put it in one simple, short sentence. That is, you are a very brave man”. 72 years ago today - DS Harry Morrison was lucky to escape with his life.
On the 22nd January 1932, twenty year old Dundee man Harry Morrison joined Birmingham City Police. Constable Morrison eventually rose to the rank of inspector, but it was his actions while a detective sergeant that saw him praised for bravery by Mr Justice Finnemore and become the final Birmingham recipient of the Kings Police and Fire Service Medal for gallantry following an incident of 27th November 1948.
By October 1933, Harry had transferred to duties in the Criminal Investigation Department (R Division). Harry’s police service record is full of accounts of his good work with a ‘compliment’ or commendation recorded nearly every year of his police service, ranging from compliments by superior officers for rendering first aid, or for arresting suspects for housebreaking or fraud. Harry’s KPM was awarded when he arrested an armed man who shot at him four times, ‘scorching his clothing’.
On Monday 29th November 1948, a Birmingham Stipendiary heard of the ‘battle in cubicle no. 784, Rowton House, Alcester Street, Birmingham’ that occurred around midnight on the 27th November. The prosecutor, Mr M.P. Pugh, outlined how Robert Edward Davis of no fixed address, shot at D.S. Morrison ‘with intent to murder him’. The court was told that together with Frank Jackson Lee of Great Russell Street, Birmingham, Davis was charged with breaking into Palmer Jones (Guns) Ltd., Whittall Street, Birmingham, and stealing over a dozen pistols and revolvers along with three-hundred and seventy-five rounds of ammunition.
Davis was tracked to the Rowton House hostel - reported to be for the ‘down-and-out’. The night porter of the hostel, Mr Hugh Brady, described how, after leading D.S. Morrison to ‘cubicle 784’, it was found to be locked. Establishing that Davis was inside, refusing to allow the officer access, D.S. Morrison climbed over the top of the cubicle and onto the bed. Davis and his bed were searched but no weapons were found. While D.S. Morrison was opening the door of the cubicle he heard Davis say,
“Stand back, or I’ll let you have it!”
Mr Pugh continued: “Though he must have realised that he was in great danger, Sergt. Morrison stood his ground. Davis fired four times, and it is a remarkable thing that the officer is here today to tell us his story”.
Mr Pugh added that one bullet passed through the officer’s coat near to his hip and another burned the cloth from his arm, whilst acknowledging that D.S. Morrison probably owed his life to the fact that the trigger finger of the man alleged to have fired at him, was missing.
Another newspaper of the time reported how D.S. Morrison told Davis: ‘Don’t be a fool’, and then dived at Davis as the weapon was fired.
Davis later said: “I am a bad shot. I had four shots and missed the lot”.
Sentencing Davis to ten years and five years concurrently, Mr Justice Finnemore told D.S. Morrison:
“I would like to say one thing, and I shall put it in one simple, short sentence. That is, you are a very brave man”.
Retired Detective Inspector Morrison died in January 1986. His KPM is held in the West Midlands Police Museum.