MK I 'Mae West' pattern life jacket : Flight Lieutenant F R McCann, 453 Squadron RAAF

Accession Number REL/02473.005
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Chromed metal, Cotton, Kapok, Rubber
Maker Air Ministry
Place made United Kingdom
Date made 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Inflatable MKI 'Mae West' pattern life jacket. Rubberised yellow cotton jacket has a collar and front panels padded with kapok. Two white cotton reinforcing tapes are stitched across the back. The lower right panel has a small flap secured by three press studs covering a chromed handle used to inflate the jacket. The handle is marked with 'AM' and a King's Crown. The right side has a cotton pocket divided into three thin compartments. Below the pocket is stitched a canvas triangular panel with a metal handle attached. The left panel has a rubber tube which enters through a split in the seam near the top. The tube continues around the collar. The left panel also has the word 'MAC' faintly visible with a flower or shamrock design. The vest closes with three brass buttons down the centre and two cotton drawstring tapes. Two cotton loop handles in the centre. The back of the vest has a large pocket containing a rubberised package stamped 'P.B.C.12' connected to the vest by a strap marked 'A.M.33C/634 7 JAN 1942'. The back of the vest also has a small label with the word 'MAC' written on it. Behind the collar is a zipper allowing access to an internal bladder marked with 'AM' and the details '7/42' and marked 'TESTED'. The inside of the vest has two internal pockets and a label reading 'AM STORES REF. No. 22C/447'

History / Summary

The MKI 'Mae West' life jacket was introduced in 1941 and was inflated from a carbon dioxide bottle worn on the right side of the jacket, rather than by the wearer. This particular jacket was worn on two operational tours by 402129 Flight Lieutenant Frederick Revis McCann. McCann was born in Hobart in March 1916 and enlisted in the RAAF in Sydney on 27 May 1940. After training at Narromine and Parkes McCann received further training in Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Mustering as a Pilot, McCann served with 452 and 453 Squadrons, flying Supermarine Spitfires. 452 Squadron operated from a series of airfields in south-eastern Britain. The focus of its operations were the skies above occupied France and Belgium, where it escorted bombing raids and conducted sweeps to engage enemy aircraft. The squadron was also employed to conduct defensive patrols over Britain and the English Channel. During its first year of operations 452 Squadron established itself as one of the most successful squadrons in Fighter Command, destroying 62 enemy aircraft and damaging another 17. 453 Squadron, operating from a series of airfields in the United Kingdom, was also a capable multi-role fighter squadron. It provided defensive air patrols over Britain and surrounding waters, escorted bombers over enemy-controlled Europe, and conducted offensive strikes in its own right attacking targets on both land and sea.
From November 1944 to March 1945, 453 Squadron was heavily engaged in striking at assembly and launch sites used by the Germans in their V2 rocket attacks against Britain. McCann served until cessation of hostilities and was discharged from 222 Squadron on 7 March 1946.