Trailblazing veteran Frances McLaren dies aged 97

Frances McLaren has died at the age of 97

Frances McLaren has died at the age of 97 - Credit: Submitted

Tributes have been paid to a Suffolk woman who was at the forefront of key technology that helped Britain win the Second World War. 

Frances McLaren from Charsfield has died at the age of 97 having played an important part in the country's war effort. 

Mrs McLaren was born Frances Shedden in Old Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, in 1923. 

During the war she worked for the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) after losing her home in a bombing raid. 

The MAEE had previously been based in Felixstowe but was then sent to RAF Helensburgh.  


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The establishment conducted military tests and research particularly on water based aircraft as well as helping with designs. 

Mrs McLaren joined the MAEE straight from school; making her the youngest and only female member of staff with the team. 

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Her work included trials of flying boats - seaplanes with hulls that could land on water - and could at times be very dangerous. 

On one occasion she narrowly avoided death thanks to a rota change. An experimental plane she was due to be flying in exploded killing the person who was sat in the seat Mrs McLaren was due to fly in. 

As well as working on seaplanes Mrs McLaren was also tasked with analysing footage of the Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb.

She also worked with the Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU) at Martlesham which carried out work with radar teams at Bawdsey. BLEU worked on autolanding for civilian and military aircrafts. 

While working with MAEE Mrs McLaren met her husband Jim, to whom she was married for over 50 years.

Mrs McLaren's work with the MAEE continued when it moved back to Felixstowe but ended when she was hit by an amphibious Seagull flying boat.

She would often joke to friends that no one would believe a seagull had ended her career.

Despite leaving the MAEE, Mrs McLaren stayed in touch with friends she had made whilst working there, including Sir James Hamilton, who helped to design Concorde, and Professor John Allen who was involved with the creation of Britain's atomic bomb. 

After the death of her husband, Mrs McLaren remained in Suffolk, living her final days in Charsfield, near Woodbridge. 

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