3 Squadron LIFETIMES

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Kenneth Norman McRAE, M.B.E., MiD.

3 Squadron's Esteemed WW2 Engineering Officer

 31/07/1910 - 23/08/2007.

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San Angelo D'Alife,
Italy.   May 1944.  Ground crew personnel of No. 3 Squadron RAAF,
 which is operating against the enemy in the Monte Cassino and Anzio areas.  The front line is barely
 five miles away from their landing ground, but the serviceability percentage has never been higher. 
Left to right, back row: N. Clift; Ken McRae; V. J. Whelan; A. C. Billet; H. R. Barrett.
Front row: R. Hill; Joe Milliken, and George Walshe.  [AWM MEA1901]

At the beautiful and historic stone church of St. Matthews, Windsor, a congregation of hundreds packed-in, to say a fond farewell and "thank you" to Ken McRae; gentleman, scholar, patriot, teacher, role-model and friend loved by all.

The service was conducted with great feeling by RAAF Chaplain Wendy Gilbert, while the RAAF Guard of Honour and pall bearers contributed with discipline and dignity, under the direction of 3 Squadron's Commanding Officer WGCDR Joe Iervasi.

Uplifting tributes were delivered by Ken's children Malcolm, Graeme, Heilan and Christopher, while grandson Michael summed up the love of all for Ken with the poem reproduced below.

The Windsor RSL carried out their traditional poppy-dedication ceremony.

Ken's son Malcolm, an internationally-renowned bagpiper, played the lament, leading Ken's coffin into the forecourt, where the congregation lifted their eyes to see a lone Hornet from Williamtown approaching silently from the east, low and fast.  It pulled to the vertical directly over the church and disappeared straight up, vanishing into the heavens above.  An overwhelming moment.

 

KEN'S POEM

by Grandson Mike McRae

Through their children,             
                ...Their children,
                               ...Their children,
They live.

With humour and love.  And a willingness to give.

What it is to be family, a Grandpa, a friend,
An uncle, a brother, a pal by the pen.

"Cob", "Coyote", "Ken";
A husband, a dad.
Survivor, Wing Commander - leader of men.

Alas, it was sad
To see one who cares for each person he loves,
Farewell so many to the flightpath above.
He sheds a tear, and lives on, with a smile,
With their memory in his heart, for another short while.

His ears and his nose continue to grow,
Wrinkles expand.
His age, it shows...

But only in looks. The spirit lives on.
Purpose in his step; his breath whistles a song.

He tends to his garden and sits by his lawn,
Remembers Eva Edwina, and days long gone.
Writes to his fans and reads his books,
Gets the satisfaction of a great-grandchild's looks.

Now: The End of an Era.
But the book's not closed.  - It's up to us to use what we know. 
And have learnt, from a man who was sweet
 As his roses.

Another trait you could never defeat
Was the absolute joy he got from a sweet.
(And though diabetes restricted that treat,
A packet of Tim Tams always hid in his seat!)

He'd park himself next to a tray of prawns, and eat himself stupid,
Or until he yawns.
Then kick-back and kip, in his favourite chair,
With gaping mouth.
Children just sit there and stare.

Warm soft friendly rugs and elegant chairs. Quirky figurines; a scary moose stares.
Grease; Zulu; Captain Cook; Seven.  The Heavenly Kid; The Battle of Britain.
Eve's rose garden; blackberries; camellias; azaleas in pairs;
Greek sculptures and fountains.  A world with no cares.

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The Squadron 3 hero, he'd march with the lads,
Never once missed a chance to thank fallen comrades.
And then with time's passing, so too do his friends.
War sagas, mateships, and bloodlines end.

But old Cobber lives on; remembers his better half.
He carries her spirit in every smile, every laugh.

The trickster, the larrikin,
The life of every 'do',
His greatest interests lay in me and you.
Whether playing, teasing,
- With that old joke we know...
"I saw your face last!", `The King of Borneo..'.
His attention was fixed; boredom'd never show.
When meeting new people, they'd receive
"BONJOURRRRRNOOOO!"

There's a pile of clippings stacked ten feet high.
The family looks nervous. - If he lights that we'll die.
But Ken, without warning's already struck a match,
Thrown into the pile - it's beginning to catch
Then a raging inferno engulfs the orchard of kin.
Ken, unnerved, recalls when Graeme fell in.
But half-through his story, the family all knows...
That it's out of control,
 So we rush for the hose.
And fill buckets with water to bring flames to an end,
But imagine what Ken's thinking: Let's do it again!

At 65 new grandkids arrive; his legacy's tram begins to drive.
A wrinkled grin and eyes alive, stories and games to invent and revive.
Hot hands and giggles, ways to bring cheer.
Then quiet exchanges, followed by a wet finger in your ear!

Then outside to play with the hose, as it's hot.
"Get off the freesias, you ruddy clot!
And don't pull the lilies from out of the pond;
Don't you wonder where all the ruddy fish have gone?"

Boofy #3, or as I was known,
"Crikey boy, you've surely grown!
You look big enough to go downstairs."
  - But watch out for that sensor's glares.
When it blinks red, it knows you've been bad.
 So do your best to be a good lad
And get the ICE CREAM.
"But I'm scared of creatures."
- And don't forget Eve's frozen peaches.

So down to the dark and gloomy we go,
In pairs, to get ice cream that froze decades ago.
The blinker gives warning as it starts flashing red,
Then we're running to avoid that hideous head.

Bred good; with conviction, to the end of his days,
To continue a life that was genuinely right.
Be kind, be friendly, and all that you might...
Tell stories, play games, live on with a smile.
Don't take things too seriously; do what's worthwhile.

So if ever you're missing the B.F.G.,
Visit old Kintail, and you'll surely see
That the spirit of Ken is never really gone,
In his garden, his family, his friends; it lives on.

He's watching us now; you can picture his face.
He's holding Eve's hand.  Then a soft embrace.
They watch over us quietly, as they move with gentle grace
In the `Kurrajong Gardens', their favourite place.

Then children are laughing.  An old man gives chase,
A stick in his hand and a smile on his face.
Eve gives a slight shake of her head, but with glee.
At this man, with whom she'll spend Eternity.

So, be sad
For the loss of such a great man.

But not for too long...
 As surely you can
Hear him speak now...

The advice he's giving is:

"Buck up, Charlie, it's time to be living!"

3 Squadron LIFETIMES

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