The last flight of ‘MacRoberts Reply’

The first aircraft named 'MacRoberts Reply' - on the N aircraft - had received considerable wartime publicity, it was badly damaged in a crash in February 1942.

The widow of Sir Alexander MacRobert, Lady Rachel MacRobert (nee Rachel Workman, an American citizen) had the great misfortune to lose all three of hers sons during service in the RAF. Sir Alasdair died in a pre war accident, Sir Roderick died in a low level attack in Iraq in 1941 and Sir Iain was lost a short time later in an air sea rescue mission in the North Sea. She chose to commemorate them by donating the funds to buy four Hurricane aircraft and one Short Stirling bomber for the RAF. The Stirling aircraft was named ‘MacRoberts Reply’.

The first Stirling so named was badly damaged in a flying accident. The second aircraft Stirling W7531 LS-F took off for a mine laying operation off the Danish coast on the 17th May 1942. This was exactly one year since Sir Roderick MacRobert had been killed on operations in Iraq.

The crew appear not to have been warned about the likely presence of the Prinz Eugen in their target area and they sustained severe damage from the heavy cruiser’s Anti-Aircraft guns, no doubt on full alert following the earlier attacks that day. The aircraft sustained more damage from ground based Anti Aircraft fire and crashed near Middlefart, Denmark, in the early hours of 18th May.

Niels Ebbe Lundholt was a local man who went to the crash site:

Monday the 18th-May-42
I heard romours that a english bomber was crashed in the Hindsgavl forrest, and I took my bicycle and went to the area, in order to see if I could find some weapons, I could use against the germans. I brought a kodak box camera, in case that I could retrieve any usefull informations.

At the crash site, a big part of the forrest was cut, it almost looked like a huge razor had cut through the trees. It look like there had been a huge explosion, since there were only small parts left from the bomber and there was a big hole in the ground.

Since there were only small parts left, I could not recognise the bomber.

His full account and much more of the history of the Short Stirling W7531 LS-F can be found at MacRoberts Reply, created by Philip Jeffs, son of the only man to survive the crash, Sgt Donald Jeffs, the wireless operator. RAF XV Squadron now continue the tradition of calling one of the aircraft ‘MacRoberts Reply’.

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