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There are few in the military or amongst those who remember the Second World War who don’t know the story of the MacRobert family.

Lady Rachel Workman MacRobert (1884 – 1954) and Sir Alexander MacRobert (1854 – 1922) had three sons, Alasdair, Roderic and Iain.

Sir Alexander & Lady MacRobertThe eldest, Alasdair, who inherited the baronial title on his father’s death, was killed in a civil flying accident in 1938, aged just twenty-six. On his death, the baronetcy passed to his brother, Roderic, a pilot in the Royal Air Force.

Roderic was lost in action just three years later on May 22nd 1941, also at the age of twenty-six, while leading a flight of Hurricanes in a strafing attack on a German-held airfield in Iraq.

The baronetcy now passed to the youngest son, Iain, who was by then a pilot officer in the RAF having joined straight from Cambridge University.

Less than six weeks after the death of his brother, Iain was reported missing when his Blenheim aircraft failed to return from a search and rescue mission which set out from RAF Thornaby in North Yorkshire. His body was never found. He was twenty-four years old.

One can only imagine how Lady MacRobert must have felt on hearing of the loss of her sons but her immediate response gives a flavour of her character. She made a donation of £25,000 to purchase a bomber for the RAF and asked that it be named “MacRobert’s Reply”.

Flying Officer PJS Boggis with the Stirling Bomber StatueThe chosen bomber was a Stirling 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.

In 1942, Lady MacRobert donated a further £20,000 to purchase four Hurricane fighters, which were sent to RAF operations in the Middle East. Three were named after her sons and the fourth after her.

These acts of fortitude and determination cemented a charitable legacy that originated with her husband’s benevolence in India and still resonates today.

Fanny Workman - MountaineerBetween 1943 and 1950, Lady MacRobert established a series of trusts to reflect the interests of her late husband, who through hard work and study rose from humble origins to make his fortune in India, and of her American parents who were famous mountaineers, explorers and authors.

In particular, Lady MacRobert wanted to provide the means and organisation to foster in young people the best traditional ideals and spirit, which she believed had prompted so many young people, including her own sons, to fight in the Second World War.

These ideals and this spirit still inform the work we do today and underpin the ethos of The Trust.

The separate trusts were amalgamated into one single trust, The MacRobert Trust, in 2001. The Trust Deed (Constitution) was amended in 2010.

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