12 July 2011

MacRae family groups

Post updated on 2 Dec 12
I have recently heard from another relative of Donald after he came across this post. As a result I've updated a link to the story of Donald's retirement that had gone dead. I also came across this news paper article about Donald's career which tells the story of him being the last man off Gallipoli and piloting a burning munitions ship out of Newcastle Harbour in 1943.

This return involves two groups of medals awarded to a father and son. It has become a fascinating story which involves one of Newcastle's most prominent citizens from the 1930s through to the 1950s.
For me this story began when I was contacted by an Army officer serving with NORFORCE. He had been asked how to return some medals that had been found in the Northern Territory. What I received is pictured.
The first group is named to Donald MacRae. They include a WWI trio for service with the Royal Navy Reserve, three WWII medals for service with the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve, a Royal NSW Humane Society medal for saving life at sea and a QEII 1953 Coronation Medal. This group is matched with the miniatures which also include a Merchant Marine medal for service with the Merchant Navy from 1907 to 1914. The second group is named to Duncan MacRae for service during WWII.
Donald MacRae
Donald was born in Scotland in 1892 and spent time in the Merchant Navy before WWI when he served in the Royal Navy Reserve (RNR). I believe that Donald was seconded to the RAN and may have been a  Beach Master at Gallipoli during the withdraw. Family history has it that Donald is reputed to have been the last person to leave the shore and returned to the ship with a machine gun but it was taken off him by British officers. These pictures are of his WWI medals.

Donald then began to work as a pilot at Newcastle and was at different time the Harbour Master of Port Kembla, Newcastle and final of Sydney. In 1936 he was awarded the Royal NSW Humane Society medal for rescuing two yachtsmen from Big Ben reef of Newcastle. This link is to the story that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. These pictures are of the obverse and reverse of the medal.

Donald then served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). This link is to his service record. These pictures are of his WWII medals.

When his appointment was terminated in 1943 he became the Harbour Master of Newcastle and then the Harbour Master of Sydney until he retired in 1956. This picture show his retirement celebrations. As the Harbour Master of Sydney he received the QEII 1953 Coronation Medal.

Donald was married to Mary and he died in 1963. The only son I could find a mention of was Duncan.
Duncan George Fletcher MacRae.
Duncan joined the RAAF early in the war and after aircrew training was commissioned as a Flying Officer. This is his full service record. Sadly, Duncan was killed when his Spitfire crashed in to the North Sea during a training flight. This link provides details of the accident (page 290). These pictures are of Duncan's WWII medals including the Air Crew Europe Star.

I then ran in to a brick wall. I knew that all clues pointed to Newcastle so I took a punt and asked the ABC in Newcastle to run the story. Paul Bevan was very generous and gave me 20 minutes on air to tell my story and what I knew about the MacRae family. No sooner had I got home when Ben (Paul's producer) called to say a lady who knew the MacRae family had called in and I was put in contact with Donald's grandson David.
What I now know is that Donald had two other children, Donald and Margaret. It would appear that the medals passed to Donald junior's son who lived in the NT and were left behind when he died suddenly about two years ago.
I'll be returning these medals to Donald's granddaughter, MaryAnne. Donald's grandson, David, told me of a much loved grandfather who was a gentleman and involved in many more brave acts than he was recognised for.
The returned medal tally is now 948.


  1. Wonderful Glyn ... I know why I am your No1 Fan :)

  2. I think I have been here before :)

    Its good to read the update.

  3. Always glad to see medals returned to the families. As an ex-service man I know what precious items like this mean to the relatives.