Monday, 11 November 2013


Cricket rarely calls for sacrifice.  There is the occasional run out offered in the interests of a higher cause - such as getting the in form batsman on strike.  From time to time Fantasy Bob has also been seen to resist the last empire biscuit on the tea table to allow a hungry eyed junior member to avert malnutrition.  But that's about it.

So Fantasy Bob is always deeply affected when he encounters real acts of sacrifice.

His mind turned to this theme during a recent event he attended at Douneside House in Aberdeenshire.   He has been to Douneside House for similar events several times - and on each visit the company learns the story of the family that at one time owned and occupied this charming residence.  Each time he hears it, FB's humility increases.  At this time of remembrance he thinks it is appropriate to share the story with his world wide readership.

Douneside House was bought by Alexander MacRobert in 1888.  Sir Alexander was the founder of the British India corporation and was knighted in 1910, later becoming the first Baronet of Cawnpore and Cromar.  He died in 1922 leaving his widow, Lady Rachael MacRobert and three sons.

The eldest son was killed in an air crash in 1938.  In 1941 the second son was killed leading a Hurricane attack on an enemy base in the Middle East.  Just over a month later the third son was killed in action when his aircraft was reported lost after a search of the North Sea for a downed bomber crew.  Such is the cruelty and pity of war.

Lady MacRobert immediately wrote to the Air Ministry:

"It is my wish, as a mother, to reply in a way my sons would applaud - attack with great fire power, head on and hard. The amount of £25,000 is to buy a bomber aircraft to continue my son's work in the most effective way. This expresses my feelings on receiving notice about my sons …
They would be happy that their mother would avenge them and help to attack the enemy. I, therefore, feel that an appropriate name for the bomber would be the MacRobert's Reply. The aircraft should also bear the MacRobert's coat of arms the family crest, a crossed fern leaf and an Indian rose. Let the bomber serve where there is the most need of her and may luck be with those who fly her. If I had 10 sons, I know they all would have done service for their country".

The plane commissioned was named MacRobert's Reply and was followed by a similar donation later in the year allowing the commissioning of further aircraft.

FB can find no record of the MacRoberts playing cricket.  Had they done so they seem like the kind of batsmen who would walk without waiting to be given out.

FB finds the final sentence of Lady MacRobert's letter very moving:

.......................If I had 10 sons, I know they would all have done service for their country.

No Saving Private Ryan sentimentalism here.  Just duty and scarifice.


  1. Well said FB.
    In Alan Whicker's splendid memoir of his experiences during the Italian Campaign of 1944-5, one anecdote remains etched in my memory. During a particularly fierce engagement, Alan found himself in a field hospital which became overwhelmed with casualties. Amidst all the mayhem of battle, one critically injured but conscious soldier politely asked the surgeon when he would be treated. Realising that the man was beyond saving, the surgeon took the stretcher-bound man to one side and said quietly "We're not quite ready for you yet". The soldier replied " I quite understand", then closed his eyes and was gone.
    The sense of duty instilled in that generation and the sacrifices which they made are beyond the comprehension of most of us. The MacRoberts were by no means untypical - whole families were wiped out in the two wars and their endeavours should never be forgotten.