Aviator to aviator: Visit with veteran ties RCAF history together

On Jan. 7, 2020, 404 Long Range Patrol and Training Squadron leadership from 14 Wing Greenwood, N.S., visited a living legend in the long-range patrol community.

Jim McRae, bottom middle, seen here receiving a gift of gratitude from members of 404 Long Range Patrol and Training Squadron leadership including LCol Angie Thomas, right, Capt Robert Albert, top middle, and CWO Jonathan Freeman, left. RCAF Photo
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F/Lt Jim McRae, formerly of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) No. 162 Squadron, is 102 years old and living at the Veterans Place in Yarmouth, N.S. He warmly greeted 404 Squadron commanding officer LCol Angie Thomas, CWO Jonathan Freeman, and training enhancement officer (and former Yarmouth resident) Capt Robert Albert, who initiated the visit.

McRae is more than a long-lived veteran who happened to fall in love with Atlantic Canada and retire in that part of the world. His war record speaks for itself, with harrowing moments of heroism, danger and sacrifice. For a centenarian, he is full of surprises, showing a PowerPoint presentation of his service in the RCAF, replete with pictures of colleagues, aircraft, and scenic vistas of the places he visited. He also showed off his very impressive rack of wartime medals, which includes the Distinguished Flying Cross, among other honours.

McRae, as a member of the storied 162 Squadron, had many successes during the war. But he lost a brother over Hanover, Germany, and almost lost his own life after a German U-boat attack left him and his crewmates adrift in the North Atlantic. Tragically, although the attack on the submarine was successful, he lost three squadron mates who succumbed to the hypothermic conditions before they could be rescued by Allied forces. McRae had no lingering physical injuries, but such a dramatic event left an indelible mark in his memory of that era and the cost involved.

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The 404 Squadron personnel fortunate enough to be welcomed into McRae’s circle learned much about the commonalities that unite all aviators, regardless of what aircraft they flew or when they flew it. To show their respect for his contribution to that community, Thomas presented McRae with a signed photo of a CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, and Freeman presented him with a 404 Squadron coin.

While these items are tokens that fail to capture the scale of the conflict McRae participated in or the magnitude of a veteran’s sacrifice, they do communicate the respect the RCAF has for those who came before today’s personnel.

One thought on “Aviator to aviator: Visit with veteran ties RCAF history together

  1. My father served on 162 Sqn with F/L (Ret) Jim McRae and as a result of this association with him I got meet Jim McRae in 1995. I was the Deputy Commander of Maritime Air Group when Jim McRae contacted me to ask for an Aurora flypast for the 50th year reunion of RCAF Station Yarmouth and 162 Squadron. Jim made the connection with me to my father and asked if as the son of a former 162 Sqn member I would be the guest speaker at the reunion. The result of our meeting is printed in the latest edition of Airforce magazine. Can you help me contact Jim McRae?

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