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David Elwyn Morris was born in London on the 22nd May 1920, the only son of Samuel Mordecai Morris, a renowned Baptist Preacher and his wife Kathleen.


He was first educated at a school in Liverpool until the age of 11, then at Loughton Grammar School (his father having moved to a church in Clacton) from which he won a scholarship to Mill Hill School in North London.[1] 

The Mill Hill Magazine reports a distinguished school career:

"D.E.MORRIS (1933-39), 228, Burton Bank, Modern VI; Monitor, September 1936, Senior Monitor, September 1937; 1st XV, 1937-38 (Captain, 1938); 1st XI (Hockey), 1939; Single-Handed IX, 1938-39; Fives Team 1936-37-38-39; Hon. Secretary of Games, Library and Blenheim Steps Committees, Member of Scriptorium, Tuckshop and League of Nations and Current Affairs Society Committees; Member of Chess, Music, Interpretes, Modern Language and Shakespeare Societies and of Peace Pledge Union; Patrol Leader in Scouts; School Certificate 1935; Higher Certificate 1937 (distinction in History); Sykes Missionary Prize, 1935; Junior Medallist, 1935; Arthur Adam Memorial Prize, 1936; Isabel Hector Fleming Prize, 1937; Senior Medallist, 1938; Wills Scholar, 1939; "In Memoriam" Prize, 1939; Hulme Exhibition in History to Brasenose College Oxford, 1939. "St David's," Boley Drive, Clacton-on-Sea." (Reproduced verbatim by kind permission of the Court of Governors of Mill Hill School).

He left Mill Hill School in the spring of 1939, and with the prospect of war looming, got in touch with some other friends (Paul Matthews and Paul Cadbury) with the intention of joining the reconstituted Friends' Ambulance Unit. However, the Principal of Brasenose College suggested that he go up for his first year in the autumn of 1939. During the year of the "phoney war" he played Rugby for the Oxford University and enjoyed a somewhat uneventful and rather social first year, much of it punting on the River Cherwell[2]. Like many others of his generation, who were born into a world that followed "the war to end all wars", he was already a committed Christian Pacifist, though he describes himself as "the least natural pacifist ever born". [3]


In May 1940, he went before a Tribunal, where his conviction as a Christian Pacifist was upheld and he became registered as a Conscientious Objector - he would not return to Oxford for another 6 years. Initially he worked with other conscientious objectors distributing food in areas of London that had suffered bomb damage, notably Bermondsey, and in various hospitals, where they performed a wide variety of tasks, some less than pleasant.[4]


In the summer of 1941, he joined the Friends' Ambulance Unit (FAU) and departed for China, where he spent 2 years driving ambulances fuelled by gas from charcoal burners, ferrying medical supplies up along what was left of the Burma Road.

At the end of February 1944, as his truck was being attacked by Chinese soldiers, he retaliated and recorded: "...the whole incident was a disgrace to one who pretended to be a Christian Pacifist."[5]. Being a man of great principle, he later wrote of the incident: "The more I thought the more it seemed clear that no one was entitled to claim exemption from military service on one aspect of Christianity unless his whole life was a shining example of Christian ethics. If one claimed a saint's privileges, one must live like a saint. This jolting along the road amid the congenial squalor and sweat and humour of China was just not good enough. I liked the life of a truck driver, but it certainly was not a Christian life. And I decided that I was not prepared to change my personal habits. Christianity was much too hard for ordinary human beings. And since I was not prepared to live like a saint I did not see how I could continue to claim exemption from military service".[6]

In China he saw the corruption, cruelty, and inefficiency which made so many lesser men bitter, but he also saw the gentleness, humour and the essential democracy of the Chinese people, and it gave him a new light on his old life[7]. He joined the British Army in India in 1944 and served as an intelligence officer with the Gloucestershire Regiment and the 14th Punjab Regiment from 1944-46. [8]

In 1948 he published his account of his time in China entitled "China Changed My Mind" (Cassells), which contained 17 half tone photographs by his fellow FAU member Stanley T. Betterton. This was reprinted in the United States in 1949 (Houghton Mifflin), but due to the post war austerity, the photographs were omitted from this edition. The edition was favourably reviewed in the New York Times in July 1949.[9]


He returned to Oxford in the summer of 1946 to complete his studies. He read Law at Brasenose College from 1948-49 and was a pupil with Quintin Hogg. He was then called to the Bar and became a Barrister in 1949. In 1955 he became a partner at Jaques & Co., (later Jaques & Lewis), joining two other former members of the FAU, Theo Willis and Len Bonsall, as a specialist in matrimonial law, and continued as a practising Solicitor in London until 1975 when he resigned to become the first solicitor to be appointed a Registrar at the Principal Registry of the Family Division then at Somerset House. In 1971 published his second book "The End of Marriage" (Cassells).

In 1974 he published his third and final book "Pilgrim Though This Barren Land" (Bles) a tribute to his father Samuel Mordecai Morris, one of the most famous Baptist Ministers of his day, who, as a result of a sermon, was involved in and won one of the most celebrated libel actions of the "Thirties".[10]

In 1987, he was interviewed by Lyn E. Smith for the Imperial War Museum who recorded an oral history lasting five hours.[11]


In 1947 he married Joyce Hellyer, whom he had met at Oxford; they had two children, Ann (b.1949) and Barry (b.1951). Following her death in 1977, he married Gwen Pearce, the widow of an Oxford G.P. until her death in 1988. In 1990 he married Clova Tudor, whose support and devotion saw him through his latter days.


He retired to North Oxford, where he enjoyed regular games of Bridge, read books to the Blind, played a weekly game of Real Tennis at the Merton Street Tennis Court, and continued to play, albeit with some considerable modification (in his favour) to the already complex rules, until about a month before his death on 29th April 2015 as he approached the age of 95.[12]


China Changed My Mind (Cassell & Company Ltd 1948; Houghton Mifflin Company in the US 1949)

Pilgrim Through This Barren Land (Geoffrey Bless 1974)

The End of Marriage (Cassell & Company Ltd 1971)


About the China Convoy

Adcock, Cynthia Letts. Revolutionary Faithfulness: The Quaker Search for a Peaceable Kingdom in China, 1939-1951. PhD Thesis, Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, 1974.

Cameron, Caitriona. Go Anywhere Do Anything: New Zealanders in the Friends Ambulance Unit in China 1945-1951. Wellington; New Zealand Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, 1996.

Davies, A. Tegla. Friends Ambulance Unit. London; George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1947.

Hicks, Andrew. Jack Jones, A True Friend To China: The Lost Writings of a Heroic Nobody. Hong Kong; Earnshaw Books, 2015.

Llewellyn, Bernard. I Left My Roots in China. London; George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1953.

Murphey, Rhoads. Fifty Years of China to Me: Personal Recollections of 1942-1992. Ann Arbor, Michigan; The Association for Asian Studies, Inc., 1994.

Reynolds, Jack. Daughters of an Ancient Race. Hong Kong; Heinemann Educational Books (Asia) Ltd, 1974.

Simpson, John E. Letters from China: Quaker Relief Work in Bandit Country 1944-46. Cambridge; Ross-Evans, 2001.

Books including material on the China Convoy

Armstrong-Reid, Susan and Murray, David. Armies of Peace: Canada and the UNRRA Years. Toronto; University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Jones, Dafydd. A Life on the Road Less Travelled; the Story of Parry Jones. Philadelphia. Infinity, 2008.

Scott, Munroe. McClure: The China Years of Dr. Bob McClure, A Biography. Toronto; Canec Publishing and Supply House, 1977.

Seagrave, Dr. Gordon S. Burma Surgeon. London; Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1944.

Smith, Lyn. Pacifists in Action: The Experiences of the Friends Ambulance Unit in the Second World War. York; William Sessions Ltd, 1998.


1.    ^ "Morris, David Elwyn (Oral history)". Imperial War Museums.

2.    ^ "Morris, David Elwyn (Oral history)". Imperial War Museums.

3.    ^ "Morris, David Elwyn (Oral history)". Imperial War Museums.

4.    ^ "Morris, David Elwyn (Oral history)". Imperial War Museums.

5.    ^ China Changed My Mind (Cassell 1948) p199

6.    ^ China Changed My Mind (Cassell 1948) pp199-200

7.    ^ China Changed My Mind (Houghton Mifflin 1949) back flap

8.    ^ "Morris, David Elwyn (Oral history)". Imperial War Museums.

9.    ^

10.    ^ Pilgrim Through This Barren Land, (Bles 1974) inside jacket

11.    ^ "Morris, David Elwyn (Oral history)". Imperial War Museums.

12.    ^

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