VE Day 75th anniversary: Celebrating the three Dundee brothers who won four Military Crosses between them

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VE Day 75th anniversary: Celebrating the three Dundee brothers who won four Military Crosses between them

by Michael Alexander

May 8 2020, 8.00am Updated: May 8 2020, 9.54am



Prominently displayed on the front page of the Broughty Ferry Guide and Carnoustie Gazette of April 28, 1945, the headline ‘West Ferry family’s unique record’ announced that three local brothers had won the Military Cross for gallantry.

Under portrait photographs of the trio, the article explained that the award to Major Stanley Rae of the RHA followed a similar award to his brothers Major Ian Rae of the Royal Artillery and Major Bruce DM Rae, of The Gordon Highlanders, the latter having been awarded a bar which equated to a remarkable second Military Cross.

Seventy-five-years after VE Day and the end of the Second World War in Europe, the extraordinary story of wartime heroics by the three siblings – and a fourth brother Douglas who spent much of the war as a Prisoner of War – is being remembered. 

Last year, to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the start of hostilities, the four Military Crosses from the Rae family were presented to The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum.

The Rae brothers survived some of the fiercest fighting of the Second World War and returned to their hometown of Dundee with remarkable battlefield achievements and recognition for gallantry in the field.

The brothers were sons of Stephen and Agnes Rae of Encliffe, Albany Road, West Ferry.

Their father was a partner in McIntyre & Rae, a well-known accountancy firm which he had founded in 1910 in Commercial Street.


The boys had grown up in Broughty Ferry and followed each other to Cargilfield Preparatory School, then Fettes College, in Edinburgh.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, Stanley joined the Honourable Artillery Company, based in Armoury House, London and, after training in gunnery and being commissioned as an officer in 1939, he left for the war in 1942.

For fighting near Perugia in 1945, he was awarded the Military Cross during an epic advance which breached German defences and sent the enemy retreating northwards towards Rome. In just two days of action, his guns each fired 600 rounds. He finished the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. 

Ian was commissioned into the 76th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in Dundee, known locally as the Dundee Gunners.

His war would take him into the heart of the action across France, Belgium and Germany. Ian H. K. Rae’s Military Cross was awarded in October 1944 in fierce fighting near the Dutch town of Venray, as the British Second Army pushed towards the German border.

He was recognised for his outstanding leadership and courage under sustained and intensive fire.


Douglas, the third brother of the Rae family, came into the world on May 6, 1918. He joined the army in 1938, enlisting with the London Scottish Regiment, which was then affiliated to the 1st Gordon Highlanders.

Captured at St Valery in 1940 as the 51st Highland Division became detached from the main British Army, he remained a prisoner of war until 1945.

He finished the war as a captain.


Bruce, the youngest of the four, was born on July 24, 1921. He won a scholarship to Fettes College, but left early in 1938. Still only 17, he returned to Dundee to work for Brown & Tawse Steel Stockholders for a while, before also joining the Gordon Highlanders, determined to avenge the capture of his brother.

He won the equivalent of two Military Crosses. The first awarded after his cool and selfless courage before and during one of the great battles of the North African campaign, during which he led his men on a daring bayonet charge on enemy positions. The additional bar was for later heroics in North West Europe in 1945.

Derek Patrick, Associate Lecturer in History at St Andrews University, said: “It’s rare enough to win it once but twice is unusual and represents quite extraordinary courage.

“I’ve come across families where two sons etc. were decorated for gallantry. It certainly happened but not something I’d describe as common!”

Ian Rae, son of medal recipient Stanley Rae, said he was “very pleased” the medals were now with the McManus, adding that it was a chapter his late father and uncles rarely talked about.

In a further twist, Mr Rae was unaware until being told by The Courier that a cousin of his father was also awarded the Military Cross.

Carly Cooper – McManus curator, with Ian Rae, right, and Sinclair Aitken, centre, Chairman of LACD, holding the medals that were handed over to the McManus Galleries in Dundee in December

According to an Evening Telegraph report of May 4, 1945, Captain William Bruce Rae-Smith was awarded the Military Cross and Croix de Guerre for gallantry in Western Europe.

He said: “On behalf of the wider Rae family, we are delighted that the medals are remaining in Dundee just a street away from where the family business of McIntyre and Rae operated from.

“We also are proud that these medals are coming under the expert care of The McManus staff to enable future generations to learn of the courage and sacrifice of the Rae brothers.”

Period8 May 2020

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