Thame Remembers Lieutenant Commander Hugh Charles James McRae
Hugh was born on 29th November 1909, the only son of Sir Charles James Hugh McRea Kt JP and Lady Edith Sophia McRea (nee Farnie). He had one sister Marjorie. When growing-up the family home was in Hendon.
Hugh joined Lord Williams’s Grammar School in 1918, and then in 1926 joined the Navy as an officer cadet at the training school HMS Worcester. Appointed a Midshipman in 1927, he went on to serve on a number of ships before being posted to the destroyer HMS Grafton as second in command in 1938.
In June 1940, during the evacuation from Dunkirk, after successfully rescuing 1600 troops, the Grafton was struck by a torpedo from U-62. With the captain and 14 others killed, the ship was too badly damaged to be towed to safety, and after all the remaining crew were rescued, she was sunk by gunfire from HMS Ivanhoe.
Lieutenant McRea was subsequently Mentioned in Despatches, and promoted to Lieutenant Commander, taking over command of the captured French torpedo boat Branlebas. He died on 14th December 1940 when the Branlebas was lost in a storm, 25 miles south-west of Eddystone. Only three from a complement of 105 were saved.
He left a wife, Frances Mary, and daughter Jean, at his home in Mill Hill, Middlesex. His name is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, and in Thame on the Lord Williams’s School memorial board.