Rear Admiral Thomas Kenneth Morrison

Thomas Kenneth Morrison was born on 31 October 1911 at Windsor, Victoria. His father was Leonard Neil Morrison, a former Tasmanian Rhodes scholar and modern language instructor at Melbourne Grammar School. Entering the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, in 1925, as a Cadet Midshipman, Morrison excelled as a sportsman, representing the college in cricket, rugby, hockey, tennis and rowing. He graduated in 1928 and served as a Midshipman for one year in HMAS Australia before travelling to England for seagoing training in HMS Ramillies and professional courses ashore. There he became one of only two Australians to represent the Royal Navy in cricket.

Sub Lieutenant Morrison returned to Australia at the end of 1932 and joined HMAS Canberra in the New Year. He transferred to HMAS Australia for three years, witnessing the 1935 Silver Jubilee Review at Spithead. Promoted to Lieutenant in February 1933, he specialised in torpedoes before returning to Britain in 1936 to attend the long course in torpedoes at HMS Vernon. On 25 June 1938 he married Dorothy Cornish Hole at St Faith's Church of England, Lee on the Solent, Southampton. He then served in the cruiser HMS Apollo, which was recommissioned in September as HMAS Hobart.

From August 1940 Hobart formed part of the Red Sea Force with which Morrison was to see action in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. His initiative in destroying all material of value to the enemy during the evacuation of British forces from Berbera, British Somaliland (Somalia), led to his being appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in April 1941. In the first half of that year, Morrison filled the post of squadron torpedo officer. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on 1 December. After the outbreak of war with Japan, he was present at the battles of the Coral Sea (May 1942) and Guadalcanal, Solomon lslands (November 1942).

On 27 April 1943 Morrison became officer-in-charge of the Fairmile Motor Launch School, HMAS Rushcutter, Sydney; this was his only substantial wartime service ashore. He rejoined Australia in January 1944, resuming the post of squadron torpedo officer. Australia participated in offensive operations against Japanese-held islands in the South-West Pacific, and took part in the Allied landings in the Philippines. During these operations the cruiser was heavily damaged by kamikaze attacks. Morrison was mentioned in despatches for ‘skill, determination and courage’ at Leyte Gulf (October 1944), and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for ‘gallantry skill and devotion to duty’ at Lingayen Gulf (January 1945).

At the close of World War II, Morrison attended a staff course in Britain. Returning to Australia, he served as director of training and staff requirements in Navy Office, Melbourne (1946-48), and at the Royal Australian Naval College, Westernport, Victoria (1948-49). He had been promoted to Commander on 1 December 1946. In his first seagoing command, Morrison, in May 1950, became the inaugural Commanding Officer of the recently commissioned destroyer HMAS Tobruk. He assumed temporary command of HMAS Bataan in August 1951 for one month, before returning to Navy Office as director of manning (1951-52). On promotion to Captain in December 1952, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel, and in the following year became honorary Aide-de-camp to the Governor-General (1953-56).

Rear Admiral Morrison crosses over from HMAS Hawk to HMAS Gull while visiting the ships in Hong Kong, 1965.
Rear Admiral Morrison crosses over from HMAS Hawk to HMAS Gull while visiting the ships in Hong Kong, 1965.

From 1954 to 1961 Morrison served in a succession of senior appointments, all of which groomed him for flag rank. Command of HMAS Quadrant as Captain of the 1st Frigate Squadron (1954-55) was followed by a diplomatic posting to Washington DC, as naval attaché (1955-57). He then proceeded to Britain for the senior officers' technical course (1957) and to attend the lmperial Defence College in 1958. Returning to Australia, Morrison assumed command (1958-59) of the RAN flagship, HMAS Melbourne; his time in command included one deployment to the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve. He was then appointed in command (1960-62) of HMAS Albatross, the Naval Air Station, Nowra.

In the 1960s the Navy was becoming more engaged in Southeast Asia, especially in assisting Malaysia and providing support to the United States Seventh Fleet during the Vietnam War. On 7 January 1962 Morrison was promoted to Rear Admiral and appointed Deputy Chief of Naval Staff at Navy Office, Canberra. He became flag officer commanding HM Australian Fleet in January 1965 and a year later flag officer in charge, East Australia Area (1966-68). He had been appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1962 and as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1967.

Rear Admiral Morrison was seconded to the Prime Minister’s Department in March 1968 before retiring from the service on 30 October 1968. Two years later he served as the Australian Commissioner-General at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. Survived by his four children, Thomas Kenneth Morrison died at Darlinghurst, Sydney, on 20 April 1983 and was cremated after a funeral service at the naval chapel, HMAS Watson.