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A Special Jacket and Tie

Heroes Remember

A Special Jacket and Tie

A caterpillar is a thing that was issued to people who saved the lives by forced parachute jumps. It’s supposedly a silk worm in which... Parachutes were made of silk originally, and it’s the parachute company that gives them out, not the government. But the jacket I’m wearing is the Escaping Society, which was formed after World War Two. It’s a Commonwealth wide society, it’s called the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society, air forces plural. And its main purpose was to make con-, try to make contact with the people that helped us and to show gratitude for their, for what they did. And we’ve done various things. We’ve provided scholarships for children whose parents were, lost their lives helping us. And help old people that, giving them, our helpers that had become old, giving them sort of little extras that they couldn’t afford. We also, in cases where their graves are not marked, we try to do that and things like that. And of course we've gone back to meet with them. For example, on one occasion the survivors of the Comet Line organized a very interesting trip for people they’d helped. If we could get to Paris they would take over. And they took over with quite a number of themselves and two buses, and we went over the route, the escape route. We went down to San Sebastian in Spain and then back to Brussels and chatted with our old friends and met some who we hadn’t known before and this sort of thing. Then on another occasion the city of Rotterdam was building an area... There was a new development and they decided to name the streets after people who had served in the Dutch underground during the war. And they invited members of the Canadian Escaping Society over and there were myself and one or two others who had escaped from Holland. And I had the honour of naming a street in this new suburb after one of my helpers, who was the priest who was executed. And things like that. We try to keep in touch with the... And as a matter of fact the Canadian branch of the Escaping Society meets every year and they always take over, with the assistance of the Department of Defence, they take over some of these people who had been our helpers during the war to be our guests at our annual meeting and a guest of some of our members for, perhaps, two or three weeks and it’s a wonderful reunion.

Mr. MacLean wore a special jacket and necktie during the recording of the interview. They bore images of a caterpillar. He explains the significance.

John Angus MacLean

Mr. MacLean’s father was a farmer in eastern Prince Edward Island. His grandfather came to Canada from Scotland in 1832. Mr. MacLean had three brothers and four sisters. Two of his brothers died, one at the age of fiveand the other at the age of about one year. For the first two years of his higher education, Mr. MacLean attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. He went on to the University of British Columbia for his third year of study on a one-year scholarship, majoring in chemistry. In 1938, he returned to Mount Allison University to complete his studies and graduated in 1939. Following graduation, he answered a newspaper advertisement placed by the Royal Air Force for a short-term commission with the RAF. He was chosen as one of two successful Canadian candidates. But, before he could leave for England, the Second World War had started and he was offered a commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he accepted. Mr. MacLean’s bomber was brought down over Germany and he and his crew were forced to bail out. Mr. MacLean landed just inside occupied Holland and was moved along the Comet Line through Holland, Belgium and France to freedom in Spain. He’s an excellent story-teller with emphasis on detail. Mr. MacLean also had an outstanding post-war career as a politician. He served for 10 terms as a Member of Parliament and a term as Premier of his home province of Prince Edward Island.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Angus MacLean
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
North America
Air Force
Bomber Command

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