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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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RAF Crest
17.05.1950 Overseas Ferry Unit Vampire F.3 VG699 Fl/Lt. Strathern DFC bar

Operation: Test flight

Date: 17th May 1950 (Wednesday)

Unit: Overseas Ferry Unit

Type: Vampire F.3

Serial: VG699

Code: -

Base: RAF Manston, Kent

Location: Istres, France

Pilot: Fl/Lt. William Makepiece Strathern DFC. Bar. 59269 (NZ/42476 RNZAF) RAF Age 30. Killed


The Vampire had been grounded for some four weeks awaiting collection. However the experienced pilot took off at 10:34 hrs for a test flight.

He made two passes over the field within minutes and then began his third. Flying inverted at around 1000 ft he then attempted to roll back to a normal flying position. The Vampire then appeared to slide slip when part of the wing detached. A puff of smoke and flames followed as the aircraft the divd into the ground just outside the airfield where it broke apart over a large area.

On the 17th May 1944 flying Halifax LK736 during a training exercise the aircraft suffered an engine fire and crashed at Great Bartford. His Air Bomber 24 year old, F/O. Victor Charles Carter (1) 55210 RAF was killed with the remaining crew, surviving, although suffering various injuries.

During WW2 he served with distinction with the Special Duties Squadron 138 when he received the DFC and bar:

DFC citation:

"Fl/Lt Strathern has now completed 28 sorties, all of a special nature. Throughout he has shown the greatest enthusiasm for operational flying and a determination to press on to his target at times in adverse weather conditions. On two occasions his aircraft (Halifax) has been attacked by two enemy fighters simultaneously, but each time, by carrying out the correct combat manoeuvres, he has evaded them without any hits being sustained by his aircraft. At the same time the enemy aircraft have not escaped unscathed."

Bar to his DFC:

"During the operation the aircraft (Stirling) was attacked by a fighter, from which a burst of machine gun fire caused much damage. The rear gunner was badly wounded and his gun turret was rendered unserviceable. The port elevator was shot away and the fuselage was hit by bullets in many places. Fl/Lt Strathern from his position in the second pilot's seat, immediately took control. By skilful manoeuvring, he succeeded in finally evading the attacker. The starboard inner engine was now out of action and the aircraft had become exceedingly difficult to control. Nevertheless, by a superb display of airmanship, Fl/Lt Strathern flew the badly damaged aircraft 300 miles back to base. In most harassing circumstances this officer displayed outstanding coolness, great courage and model captaincy".

In early 1949 he flew 64 missions in Yorks during the Berlin Airlift providing vital assistance to the German population.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. William Makepiece Strathern DFC. Bar. Nouveau, France. Born on the 02nd August 1919 at Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand. A total 1224 flying hours logged and having completed some 36 operational sorties during WW2.

(1) F/O. Victor Charles Carter. Broughton Churchyard, Flintshire (St. Mary) Son of Samuel Edward and Marguerite Sarah Carter, of Saltney, Flintshire.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, Helen Strathern for pilot image, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 12.01.2019

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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