George Ranald MacFarlane Reid (1893 – 1991) Fairlie-born soldier who fought in the First World War and went on to become a pilot. Retired in 1946 having servied in two World Wars.
On the 25th of October 1893 the WWI flying ace George Ranald MacFarlane Reid was born in Gondola Cottage, Fairlie.
His parents were George MacFarlane Reid, a Company Director, and Gertrude Macquisten, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. His sister Henrietta MacFarlane Reid was born the year before in Ardeer House, Stevenston.
His military career began prior to the First World War when he entered the Officer Training Corps. In the early days of the war he was commissioned as a temporary second-lieutenant in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, before being wounded with the Black Watch in January 1915 at the Battle of Festubert, France. His wound did not deter him though, as he started his pilots training that very same month, training at RAF Montrose on a Maurice Farman biplane. By October that year he had earned his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 1900.
With his training complete he was assigned to No. 25 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. On the 16th, 19th & 21st May 1916, Reid and his pilot Lt. James Anderson Mann, downed 3 enemy aircraft and fought off a few more using an FE.2b plane. Reid received a Military Cross in June 1916 as a result of these victories. That same month he was transferred to No. 20 Squadron RFC as a Flight Commander with the rank of acting captain. He was again to bring down enemy planes, this time with Lieutenant Laurence H. Scott as his gunner and a newer plane the FE.2d. Between July and October 1916 the pair downed 6 more planes, Reid’s final tally was 7 German planes destroyed, with 2 being driven down out of control. A Bar in lieu of a second MC (a bar medal to attach to a medal if a recipient is awarded it more than once) followed on 25 November 1916.
In the period post-WWI, Reid was stationed in Germany before being re-stationed in Egypt. He would receive the rank of Squadron Leader in 1919. By 1925 he had been promoted once more to Wing Commander and was transferred to command of RAF Spitalgate. In 1927 he was posted to Khartoum as Senior RAF Officer.
He progressed through the ranks and in 1933 he began duty as Air Attaché to the United State in Washington, D.C. A year later he was engaged to Leslie Livermore Wright, the granddaughter of a US Senator and his future wife.
The Second World War found him an Air Vice Marshal and he was chosen as Air Officer Commanding British Forces in Aden. His conduct of operations got him a Mention in Despatches twice and he was awarded a DSO (Distinguished Service Order.) He was knighted in March 1941 and was now Sir George Ranald MacFarlane Reid.
In January 1946 Reid retired, having faithfully served his country for 32 years and through 2 world wars. On 1 January 1952 he was honoured with the appointment of Gentleman Usher to King George VI (a Gentleman Usher acts as an usher at state occasions. They lead royals and guests in procession before conducting them to their seats.) When the King died a month later the new Queen, Elizabeth II, renewed his appointment. In November 1959 Reid resigned as Gentleman Usher but was concurrently appointed an Extra Gentleman Usher.
Despite serving in 2 World Wars, Reid lived a remarkably long life. He died in May 1991 at the grand old age of 97.