Historic links between RAF squadron and charity are revisited

Trustees from the MacRobert Trust with Squadron Leader Bryan Parsons (left) and Wing Commander Jon Nixon (right).

A long-standing connection between the RAF in Moray and the MacRobert Trust was recently underlined by a visit to Lossiemouth.

Representatives of the Trust, which acts as both a landlord and charity and owner of a historic legacy that has donated millions of pounds to charitable causes, visited XV(Reserve) Squadron at the Moray base to reaffirm their long-standing connection with the Tornado Operational Conversion Unit – and to increase their understanding of the modern Royal Air Force and a front-line RAF station.

The connection between the MacRobert family and the RAF began in the 1930s. The three sons of Lady Rachel MacRobert and her husband Sir Alexander MacRobert were all killed within three years of each other in separate flying incidents – the eldest of the two were killed in action whilst on missions during World War II.

Lady MacRobert’s response to her sons’ deaths was to donate £25,000 to purchase a bomber for the RAF and asked that it be named “MacRobert’s Reply”.

The chosen aircraft was a Stirling heavy bomber of XV Squadron, which was handed over in October 1941 to its first captain, Flying Officer PJS Boggis, who captained it on twelve operational missions.

This was the start of a tradition that the RAF has kept alive. A succession of RAF aircraft has since carried the name. The current “MacRobert’s Reply” is a Tornado GR4 from XV (Reserve) Squadron, still identified by the cherished tail letter ‘F’.

The visitors were greeted by a low level, high speed flypast by one of XV(Reserve) Squadron’s aircraft. The Trustees were then given a tour of the Squadron; unfortunately the current “MacRobert’s Reply” was unavailable as it was undergoing major servicing at RAF Marham. Wing Commander Jon Nixon, Officer Commanding XV(Reserve) Squadron, explained the capabilities of the Tornado GR4 and why it is so suitable for current operations.

The Trustees also visited the Airplay Lossie programme at The Circle Community Centre in Elgin. There they spoke to children, and their parents, who take part in Airplay events and the staff who run the scheme.

The MacRobert Trust supports the annual running costs of Airplay in partnership with the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Squadron Leader Parsons, the visit escort, said the Trustees were interested in seeing how the support of the MacRobert Trust was helping the children of RAF personnel today – years after the initial positive action by Lady MacRobert.

He said: “All of the Trustees understand the strains put on the families of servicemen and women; the original donation by Lady MacRobert is at the heart of everything the Trust stands for.

“To see where the Trust’s funding is helping to ease that strain, especially in the centenary year of the beginning of the First World War, was very important to them.

“It was a genuine privilege to meet and host some many of our friends from the Trust; their interest and enthusiasm for the Squadron and the Royal Air Force was quite touching”

XV(Reserve) Squadron are proud custodians of significant historical memorabilia demonstrating their connection with the MacRobert Trust.

The Trustees were grateful to see many items on display and were amused to learn about ‘MacRobert’s Reply’ road, near the Station main entrance.

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