Remember

Today it’s Remembrance Sunday, when we remember the fallen and the sacrifice of many in the name of freedom for all. Last weekend we had All Saints Day, when we remember all saints and martyrs, known and unknown, throughout Christian history. It is certainly a season of remembering, and for me, I remember someone particularly special.

My grandad, Julian Macrae-Clifton (Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy) died on this day 10 years ago. It isn’t really all that long, and yet in other ways such a very long time. So much has happened, and I often wonder how he would have chatted at length with my husband, or enjoyed holding my daughter when she was born. It is strange to me that the two most important people in my life have never met someone who was so important to me growing up.

Most of all, I miss talking to him about sailing; I miss him falling asleep on the sofa, and then waking determined that he wasn’t sleeping (even though he was snoring); I miss his voice, which I am not sure I can remember. I miss him for all he would have brought into our lives as a family of 3, but mainly, selfishly, I miss him for all he brought into my life.

Whilst we loved him as husband, dad, grandad, he also served his country. And 50 years ago he was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct. And so, in this season of remembrance, it seems fitting to share this citation from his award here:

Citation for award of QCB said:

Awarded for great courage, unusual initiative, cool judgement and exemplary devotion to duty.

Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton served with the Scotland and Northern Ireland Command Explosive Team for four years, during which time he performed many hazardous tasks in an exemplary fashion. On two occasions, he displayed particular courage, coolness and skill.

On 11th October, 1968, he was required to dispose of a mine which had been sucked into the shoe of the Dutch suction dredger WILHELM STEAD, while operating in the entrance of the river Humber. Weather conditions were poor, with a gale blowing from the South East. He started work on board the dredger shortly before midnight and found that the mine was slightly crushed, and held fast in the suction pipe. He unhesitatingly decided to remove the primer-detonator assembly before attempting to extract the mine. Having taken the precautions of ensuring that all other personnel were as far away as possible, and that the dredger had boats in the water, he proceeded to render the mine safe. This involved a long process of carefully cleaning rust and corrosion from the primer-detonator tube, and was finally finished about two hours later.

Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton’s decision to render the mine safe before moving it involved great personal risks while minimising the the danger to others, and exemplified his great courage and high sense of duty.

Again, on 3rd December, 1968, he was required to dispose of a mine which had been landed on the Fish Market quay at Peterhead. The primers and detonator were still fitted, the cast filling was intact but becoming more unstable as the mine dried out. The prime-carrier had been damaged, and he decided that it was too dangerous to try and render the mine safe where it was. With assistance from RAF Buchan, he guarded the mine overnight, keeping it damp with rags. In the morning he accompanied the mine to a disused airfield three miles away and exploded it; the subsequent crater was about thirty feet across and fifteen feet deep. He had been with the mine for over eighteen hours, a period of increasing danger as the weapon dried out.

In both these incidents, Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton showed great courage, unusual initiative, cool judgement and exemplary devotion to duty.

In recognition of this service, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second has been graciously pleased to award Her Commendation for Brave Conduct to Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton.”

Grandad, you are missed, and so loved.

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