Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



John McCairn


John, more commonly known to his army colleagues as 'Ginger', passed away peacefully on 12th June 2015 aged 79. He was born on 10th September 1935 in Cardenden, Fife and was the younger son to brothers Eddie and Patrick and later two younger brothers Neil and Tommy.

John shared a passion with his elder brothers for boxing and the three boys joined the Anderson Boxing Club in Glasgow to learn the noble art.

In 1952 at the age of 16 years, John joined 'boy's service' — it would prove the making of him. He was to become 'boy' RSM while completing his boy's service in Harrogate — it was an indication of what was to come. His decision to join the army would shape his life and commence a lifetime of loyal service and dedication to others, including his family.

The McCairn family moved to south to reside in Deal, Kent.

John was able to continue his passion for boxing and followed brother Eddie in joining the famous Repton Boys Club in Bethnal Green boxing for the London ABA. He also represented the army in the 1952 combined forces tournament for boys, winning in the final.

As he grew into adulthood John's career took off and in 1957 joined 9 Indep Para Sqn RE. He often remarked that the parachute jumps and some heavy landings 'did' for his knees in later life. He was to spend 10 years with the 9 Sqn serving in Aden, Bahrain and Kenya and some not so exotic places.

It was in 1958 that John met Marigold and they were married in 1959 and were later to be blessed with two daughters; Jane and Claire and two sons lain and Alexander.

Promotion soon raised John to the rank of SSgt and a former new arrival into the Sqn (Dave Rutter) wrote: "Arriving back from Abingdon in August 1963 I had the good fortune to be posted into 1 Troop with the infamous Ginger McCairn as troop SSgt. What a character — probably one finest SNCOs one could wish to serve with. He got great pleasure running the troop over the 'tank tracks' of Long Valley. He'd a great sense of humour and a fine boxer too. A sad, sad loss of a fine airborne soldier".

On completion of 24 years' service and at the rank of Warrant Officer Class I, John retired from the army. After his army career John continued to serve his country by joining the security service of the Diplomatic Corps. He, Marigold and the family were to serve in British Embassies around the world — some in bizarre locations and others in hostile countries — Iraq, China & Russia (come to mind). He once risked personal safety in war-torn Iraq sitting in the back of a pick-up truck to drive from Bagdad to Basra to get fresh food and supplies for his family. After the many years in Army Service and the Foreign Office, John deservedly retired, initially to Inverness and then finally back to Deal.

His children quote: "Dad was a man of few words, but he taught us good manners, discipline, service and love. We shall miss him greatly".



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