Eighty years after the start of the Second World war, an extraordinary story of wartime heroics has been revealed with the donation of four Military Crosses from the same family to The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum.
Brothers from the Rae family survived some of the fiercest fighting of the Second World War and returned to their hometown of Dundee with remarkable battlefield achievements and recognition for gallantry in the field. Indeed one brother, even received an additional bar on his military cross for his courageous actions.
Stanley, Ian, Douglas and Bruce Rae were the sons of Stephen and Agnes Rae of Encliffe, Albany Road, West Ferry. Their father was a partner in McIntyre & Rae, a well-known accountancy firm which he had founded in 1910 in Commercial Street. The boys had grown up in Broughty Ferry and followed each other to Cargilfield Preparatory School, then Fettes College, in Edinburgh.
Shortly after the outbreak of war, Stanley joined the Honourable Artillery Company, based in Armoury House, London and, after training in gunnery and being commissioned as an officer in 1939, he left for the war in 1942. in fighting near Perugia in 1945, he was awarded the Military Cross during an epic advance which breached German defences and sent the enemy retreating northwards towards Rome. In just two days of action, his guns each fired 600 rounds.
Ian was commissioned into the 76th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in Dundee, known locally as the Dundee Gunners. His war would take him into the heart of the action across France, Belgium and Germany. Ian H. K. Rae’s Military Cross was awarded in October 1944 in fierce fighting near the Dutch town of Venray, as the British Second Army pushed towards the German border. He was recognised for his outstanding leadership and courage under sustained and intensive fire.
Douglas, the third brother of the Rae family, came into the world on May 6, 1918. He joined the army in 1938, enlisting with the London Scottish Regiment, which was then affiliated to the 1st Gordon Highlanders. Captured at St Valery in 1940 as the 51st Highland Division became detached from the main British Army, he remained a prisoner of war until 1945.
Bruce, the youngest of the four, was born on July 24, 1921. He won a scholarship to Fettes College, but left early in 1938. Still only 17, he returned to Dundee to work for Brown & Tawse Steel Stockholders for a while, before also joining the Gordon Highlanders, determined to avenge the capture of his brother. He won the equivalent of two Military Crosses. The first awarded after his cool and selfless courage before and during one of the great battles of the North African campaign, during which he led his men on a daring bayonet charge on enemy positions. The additional bar was for later heroics in North West Europe in 1945.
Sinclair Aitken, Chair of Leisure & Culture Dundee, who manage The McManus said
“We are delighted to accept this rare collection of medals on behalf of Dundee City Council to keep the memory of the Rae family together.”
“Much of the focus for museum collecting nation-wide in recent years has focused on the First World War to mark the centenary of that conflict, and we have received some outstanding donations.”
“Now as we mark the 80th year since the outbreak of the Second World War, it is hoped that museums throughout the UK will see an increase in donations like this one relating to the Rae boys from Dundee, that tell their story of life during a conflict.”
Ian Rae, son of medal recipient Stanley Rae, said
“On behalf of the wider Rae family, we are delighted that the medals are remaining in Dundee just a street away from where the family business of McIntyre and Rae operated from. We also are proud that these medals are coming under the expert care of The McManus staff to enable future generations to learn of the courage and sacrifice of the Rae Brothers.””
The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum hope to display the medals in their Making of Modern Dundee Gallery in 2020.