Stirling Bomber

Stirling Bomber
Stirling bomber

Friday, 2 October 2015

The story of the MacRobert's Reply

It is a story that has been told in fragments, but, when taken as a whole, becomes truly remarkable.

It begins in Aberdeen where a young Alexander MacRobert sets out for India to seek his fortune. His success comes in the shape of the British India Corporation.

Mac, as he is known, meets a young American, Rachel, from New England. She becomes his second wife and they have three sons.

In 1922 Mac is created Baronet of Cawnpore and Cromar. Later that year he dies. The eldest son, Alastair aged ten, succeeds to the title.

Tragedy strikes a further three times as each son is killed, the latter two in the service of the RAF.

Rachel gives them the means by which they can Reply, in the form of a Stirling Bomber which she hands to 15 Squadron.

The Bomber, call sign F for Freddie, is piloted first by Peter Boggis, who would make his career in the RAF, and then by 'Red' King.

The first MacRobert flew many operations but ended its day in a collision on the ground.

The MacRobert crest was transferred to another Stirling and this crashed tragically in Denmark killing eight crew members. The crash is remembered to this day by local Danish people who wished to show their thanks to the British bomber crew for supporting them in resisting the German occupation.

Radio operator, Don Jeffs, miraculously survived and spend his war as a PoW before undertaking and surviving the Long March home.

The MacRobert's Reply name was revived in 1982 by Peter Boggis and since then 15 Squadron has always flown a MacRobert's Reply F for Freddie.

Find out more about the book which has now been published in a limited edition

Friday, 25 September 2015

The beginning

In my work on War on Wheels, I have found instances of individuals, groups and businesses raising money for the war effort. The MacRobert's Reply is more than one such instance, since it was substantial, enduring and told the story of great commitment by a grieving mother. The result today is the MacRobert Trust.

Put very briefly, Lady MacRobert lost all three of her sons in the early part of the war. Inspired by Spitfire Week, she gave to the RAF a cheque for £25,000 (£700,000 in today's money) to buy a Stirling Bomber.

The story that followed was about the young men who flew the aircraft and its successors. It is their story that I am now beginning to explore in collaboration with the son of one the surviving crew members, Donald Jeffs, and Story Terrace.