The 100th anniversary of the death of a “stoic and passionate” MP who volunteered for war on land, sea and in the air was marked on Wednesday.
Francis McLaren left his Spalding seat at the House of Commons for the Royal Naval Volunteer Service at the outbreak of the First World War.
Because he owned a Rolls Royce and was friends with then Home Secretary Winston Churchill, McLaren “wangled” his way to the front line in Belgium and joined the RNAS Armoured Car Division.
He led the only armoured car attack at Gallipoli during the Dardanelles campaign in Turkey, but became ill on being reassigned to Egypt.
Using all his power to arrange a commission with the nascent Royal Flying Corps, it was at the RFC’s training base in Montrose that McLaren crashed his Avro 504A into the sea on August 30 1917.
During the aerodrome’s early days as a pilot training facility, an American pilot wrote that there was “a crash every day and a funeral every week”.
McLaren’s life and those of the other tragic Montrose pilots was marked at the town’s air station heritage centre.
Guests included his great nephew Charles, Lord Aberconway, great niece Diana McLaren, grandson the Rev Richard McLaren, Angus MP Kirstene Hair, Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon, and the Earl of Dalhousie.
Angus Provost Ronnie Proctor said: “Flight today is an everyday occurrence,
“However in 1917 it was an extraordinary endeavour, the preserve of the few and invariably the young.
“Members of the Royal Flying Corps were pioneers of their age…
“Today we commemorate Lieutenant the Honourable Francis McLaren MP and those like him — they made the ultimate sacrifice and we should remember them.”
Paying tribute to a “stoic and passionate” figure alongside serving members of the RAF, Group Captain Bob Kemp said Montrose’s role in the RFC “sits firmly in the middle of quite a Scottish story”.
“It is particularly appropriate to gather in Montrose to remember those killed in training,” he said.
“It was from Montrose that aircraft took off to become the first in France at the outbreak of the war.”
The McLaren family gave readings and Dr Neil Geddes gave an aerobatic display in a replica SE5 scout plane.