25th January 1942 485 Squadron Spitfire Vb AB788 Fl/Lt. Strang
Date: 25th January 1942 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 485 Squadron (motto: Ka whawhai tonu - 'We will fight on') 11 Group
Type: Spitfire Vb
Base: RAF Kenley, Surrey
Location: English Channel
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Robert Harold Strang 79515 RAFVR Age 23. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 1:30 hrs with 11 others to carry out a fighter sweep.
When over the Strait of Dover AB788 inexplicably stalled and spin before diving vertically into the sea. The squadron had not at this stage had any action with the enemy and it is thought the most likely cause was oxygen failure.
Despite searches by his section, no trace of the young New Zealand pilot could be found. At the time of the incident there were high winds and heavy sea.
He had a lucky escape when on the 01st December 1940 flying Spitfire I P9454 FZ-W with 65 squadron the engine caught fire and he was forced to abandon the aircraft over Mayfield. The Spitfire eventually crashing at Tolhurst Farm, just South of Bewl Water, Tilehrst, Sussex. Again during an earlier incident this aircraft had to be rebuilt after a forced landing at Crymlyn Bog in south Wales whilst with 92 squadron, the cause - engine failure. Delivered to 65 squadron on the 26th August 1940.
Above: 485 Squadron members, Redhill 1941. Front sitting L-R: Fl/Sgt. John Donald Rae, Fl/Lt. Richard Barrett, Fl/Sgt. Harvey Sweetman. Centre: P/O. Henry Wallace Macleod RCAF, Sgt. Ellis Arthur Gilbert Cochrane, Sgt. Lyndon Poynton Griffith, P/O. William Vernon Crawford-Compton, Sq/Ldr. Marcus William Bower Knight, Sgt. Andy S. Kronfeld, P/O. David Thomas Clouston. Rear on Aircraft: Fl/Lt. Robert Harold Strang, Sgt. Arnold George McNeil, Sgt. Lindsay Jack Frecklington, Sgt. Francis, Fl/Sgt. William Max Krebs. (see notes below)
F/O. John Donald Rae DFC and bar NZ/402896 - Survived as a PoW.
Fl/Lt. Richard Barrett NZ/391324 - killed on the 17th May 1944.
Fl/Lt. Harvey Nelson Sweetman DFC NZ/40992 - survived the war - Died 15 January 2015 Age 93
P/O. Henry Wallace Macleod J/4912 RCAF - killed 27th September 1944.
P/O. Ellis Arthur Gilbert Cochrane NZ/403950 - Missing - believed killed on the 02nd March 1943
Fl/Lt. Lyndon Poynton Griffith DFC. 501133 - survived the war - no further information.
Air Vice Marshall William Vernon Crawford-Compton 65500 - Died 02nd January 1988 Age 73.
Sq/Ldr. Marcus William Bower Knight - survived the war - Died 1993
Fl/Lt. Andrew Samuel Kronfeld NZ/402523 - survived the war - no further information.
Fl/Lt. David Thomas Clouston MiD. NZ/404337 - survived the war - Died 24th March 1998 Age 80.
Fl/Lt. Robert Harold Strang 79515 - Missing - believed killed on the 25th January 1942.
Sgt. Arnold George McNeil NZ/41484 - killed on the 25th February 1942.
Fl/Lt. Lindsay Jack Frecklington NZ/401261 - survived the war - no further information.
Sgt. Francis - survived the war - no further information.
Fl/Sgt. William Max Krebs NZ/402194 - Missing - believed killed on the 26th March 1942
Burial and personal details:
Fl/Lt. Robert Harold Strang. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 66. Born on the 16th May 1918 at Invergarville. Worked as a commercial traveller for David Strang Ltd. (coffee and spice manufacturers). Awarded his 'A' flying licence with the Southland Aero Club on the 20th March 1939. Selected for RAF on a short service commission on the 28th October 1939. Awarded his pilots badge on the 22nd January 1940. Attached to the RAF and embarked for England on the 23rd March 1940. After various Operational Training Units before joining 65 Squadron on the 04th September 1940. Whilst with 65 he carried out some 36 operational sorties. Joined 485 squadron on the 01st June 1940. Son of Robert Matthew and Jeannie Strang (née Campbell), of 23 lewis Street, Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand and husband of Marguerite Strang, of Muswell Hill, Middlesex. A total of 499 flying hours logged and on his 105th operational sortie. He had flown on operations dated 25/26th October 1940 thus qualifying for the Battle of Britain clasp but this was not claimed/awarded.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, AWMM, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below: