It’s an RAF tradition borne from a mother’s grief after she lost three sons in the service of their country.
And this week, young RAF cadets unveiled four new aircraft in Dundee which commemorate the men, and one other connected to the family.
Lady Rachel Workman MacRobert and Sir Alexander MacRobert had four sons, but three of them – Alasdair, Roderic and Iain – died in flying accidents in their mid 20s.
As a tribute, Lady MacRobert donated £25,000 at the height of the Second World War to purchase a bomber for the RAF, named MacRobert’s Reply. The Stirling Bomber W7531 flew many missions but May 17 1942 was to be its last. The crew of eight took off from England bound for Denmark to drop mines and small arms to the Danish resistance.
However, after taking several hits, the plane crashed in a forest near Midddelfart, Denmark.
The sole survivor was radio operator Warrant Officer Donald Jeffs.
Badly burned and temporarily blinded, he was held as a prisoner of war until the end of the conflict.
Now, to provide a permanent tribute to the men, Jim Watt, managing director of Tayside Aviation, decided to seek permission to carry the MacRobert Trust crest and names on the company’s aircraft.
All four aircraft will be used to teach cadets how to fly, many of whom will go on to become pilots or officers in the RAF or Royal Navy.
The Aquila aircraft, carrying the names of the three brothers and Mr Jeffs were unveiled at Tayside Aviation today.
Three planes have been named Spirit of Sir Alasdair, Spirit of Sir Iain and Spirit of Sir Roderic respectively.
The fourth plane carries the name of Spirit of Warrant Officer Donald Jeffs, who died in 2017, at the age of 98.
Mr Watt said: “We are honoured and proud to be unveiling these four aircraft which tell an important story of selfless bravery, sacrifice and resilience, which we are keen to keep alive in the minds of today’s cadets.
“Lady MacRobert’s strength and determination has cemented a charitable legacy.
“Although the RAF has continued to carry the MacRobert crest on a bomber, the names of the three sons have all but disappeared, so we felt that it would be a fitting tribute.”