Cupid also served at MAEE Rhu

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Mum-and-Dad-Rhu-wBEHIND the dramatic stories about aircraft, bombs and depth charges worked on during World War Two by the Rhu-based Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, there are also many personal stories.

Retired newspaper editor Robin Bird, who has written two books lifting the veil of secrecy over what was called, for security reasons, RAF Helensburgh, is just as interested in the people as he is the events, successful or tragic.

The happy couple are Raymond Frank Rogers and his wartime bride Anne Primrose, and they are pictured outside her mother’s home at Kirkpark Cottage, Rhu, a few yards along the road from the village church.

They married in 1940 and then lived in Rhu, and this delightful old photo from a family album would have remained just that had it not been for the Helensburgh Heritage Trust website.

Ian Rogers, who lives in France, was going through his family album recently and wondered what his late father did in the Second World War.

He knew he served with the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment in Scotland, but did not know much about the MAEE.

After finding the military section of the Trust website Ian found stories about the MAEE and contacted Robin as a result. He responded sending information on the type of trials carried out with flying boats.

There were some 375 personnel serving at the establishment. A large number of them were civilians, like Raymond Rogers, so it was impossible to state exactly what he did — other than it was scientific or technical and important to the war effort.

oxford-bank-wIan also sent the photo (left) and hopefully Trust website visitors might recognise some of the people in it.

The picture has the wording New Year 1939/40 Oxford Bank, which is a house at 74 Sinclair Street.

Mr and Mrs Rogers to be are in the back row, left corner, but who are the other people? Colleagues?

What was the occasion for the celebration? Do you recognise anyone? Robin says the chap on the far right is Vincent Drake, head of the marine section.

His daughter, Angela Witt, also contacted Robin wanting information about her dad's war. In return she sent some photos of her parents at Helensburgh when she was a toddler.

Robin is continuing to research the history of the MAEE from 1939-45 and he says these family photographs offer a fascinating insight into the private lives during the war when people from all over the country were thrown together in a place called Rhu.

Mr Drake, for example, survived two crashes in flying boats and had a demanding job and young family, but found Sundays off could be a little too quiet because of the way the Sabbath was observed in Scotland.

This would be understable as Mr Drake came from the busy town of Felixstowe, where MAEE had been based before the wartime move to Garelochside.

MAEE employed RAF and civilian types, both male and female, and they had a dangerous occupations, often flying in experimental aircraft. It is good to think they had their happy moments and romances. Cupid was there, too, and a number of the romances resulted in weddings.

Frances McLaren met her future husband while they both served in the MAEE at Helensburgh.

Robin's father, Bob Bird, spent his honeymoon at Rhu and Loch Lomond. The MAEE photographer had wed Thea Neilson, a firewoman in the Liverpool Blitz.

Today, at the of 92, Mrs Bird still remembers her few days of honeymoon in Scotland as her happiest during the war.

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