I need a photo of him. If you can help, please contact me.

via email from Roger Todd, 1-11-05
     Robert F Macfie who was briefly involved with tank development. I hadn't noticed before, but in John Glanfield's excellent book 'The Devil's Chariots', about the origins of the tank, when he introduces Macfie he describes him as 33-years of age in 1914 - that would make his birth year 1881, same as mentioned on your site (1881-1943). Also, I know that he was an aviator - he flew at Brooklands in 1911, built his first plane a couple of years before, all of it ties in with the details on your site and Seiger's. However, Seiger describes him as American, whereas according to Glanfield he was Scots-Canadian. He can't have been a US citizen anyway, as he joined the RNAS in late 1914 (which is how he came to be involved with trying to build a tank).
     I've completed my article and it should appear soon (within the next couple of days I should imagine) on a website devoted to Great War armour and artillery - it'll be on the British Tanks section:
     However, I caution you, it's not terribly flattering to him! He may have been a good engineer, and was certainly brave, but he also sounds to have been a right royal pain in the you-know-where to work with! Certainly he was when trying to develop his tank.
Anyway, that's all I have on Macfie, but feel free to use any of it on your site!
by Roger Todd
"The History
Robert Francis Macfie is one of the unsung minor heroes of the story of the origins of the tank. A talented Scots-Canadian engineer and early aviator, he had travelled widely before the war and had seen Holt tractors in action on plantations in the West Indies. He had also carried out an extensive study of mechanical ploughing in Canada for a consortium of New York businessmen, during which he had appraised the Holt and other tractors. It was only natural, then, that when war broke out, he should be an ardent advocate of tracklayers."

     This is the introductory paragraph from Roger's very comprehensive article on Robert Macfie and his role in the development of the tank. You can read the entire article, which is featured on the Landships website, by clicking on the title above.

via email from Roger Todd, 1-11-05
Dear Ralph,
Bitten by the google bug, I've found a couple of potentially useful sites...
'Robert Francis Macfie
1881- 1943 Married
October 4, 1911
Kathleen Armstrong' - daughter Auriel, whom you found. It says too: 'Robert Francis, is alledged to have been one of the primary figures in the invention of the TANK, a weapon of war.'

I suspect you must know the above site anyway, but I found another which, upon closer inspection, wasn't actually very helpful at all, apart from yielding a fact of interest only to me - Robert Macfie was born on 10 November, which is my mother's birthday.

A Robert Douglas Macfie was trying to contact her:

His email is: (which appears to now be

And on this page - - is this mention:

'Notes in Lady McLure's register Robert was an Engineer in the RN, served in the German War of 1914. Was here in Canada, and later with Messrs J Constable & Co, printers, Edinburgh Scotland'

These first couple of facts - engineer in the RN (that's where he learned engineering, apparently), serving in the1914 war, and being in Canada, all point to Robert F. Plus Lady McLure was mentioned on one of the other sites in connection with him. I can't find the printers though.

Ah well, probably a dead end now.


via email from Roger Todd, 1-11-05
Aurelia Macfie Douglas, it would appear, died in January 2002:
The page is for alumni of Santa Monica High, with profiles for some. This is Aurelia's entry:
Auriel MACFIE, Class of '42
The numbers in brackets puzzled me briefly, then I realised - they are death dates. Before I realised I tried emailing her! All I got was 'email returned', and no wonder...

     If you search for "Robert F. Macfie", using the Google search engine, (1-6-06), you will find just three links, including this page. However, one of them is a very important resource.

Herb Sieger's
Pioneer Powered Plane Project
     This outstanding website offers several beautiful photographs of Macfie's aeroplanes. The site is introduced by the following explanation:

"Herb Sieger is a retired Swiss international trader. On taking early retirement back in the late eighties, he and his wife, Sylvia, moved to Tuscany, Italy, where they became 'hobby farmers'.
It was his general interest in vintage aircraft that inspired Herb to try and research the subject in order to produce a chronological history of full-scale powered vintage planes, and modelflight was pleased to host the project."

     You can access the page by clicking on the title above. If you use your FIND function on "Macfie," you will find photos of three aeroplanes which were designed and built by him. The first was the Macfie monoplane built in 1909. The second is the 1910 Macfie "Empress" biplane and the third is the 1911 Macfie circuit biplane.
     If time permits, I heartily recommend that you take advantage of the many other photographs and stories which Herb has assembled for us.

     If you search for "Robert Francis Macfie", using the Google search engine, (1-6-06), you will find just three links, all related to geneological information. I can't be sure that "Robert F. Macfie" and "Robert F. Macfie" are one and the same person at this time, but the connection is possible and intriguing and deserving of more research.

Letter received through the E mail Sept 20 2003.
     This letter on the RootsWeb site is most interesting and may contain clues as to the identity of the man in question and perhaps lead to a contact with existing family members. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.

Robert F. MacFie died in 1943
From The Early Birds of Aviation
Roster of Members
January 1, 1993

Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

BackNext Home