Flight Lieutenant Robert Harold Strang
A forgotten Kenley Kiwi hero: Flight Lieutenant Robert Harold ‘Jack’ Strang. From Invercargill, he learned to fly privately with Southland Aero Club pre-war, joining the RNZAF in 1939, arriving in Britain with 11 other Kiwis the following year – seven would killed in action, and two more captured.
After conversion to Spitfires Jack joined 65 Squadron at Turnhouse, where the Squadron was rebuilding after action in the Battle of Britain. Having survived baling out after the unit’s move to Tangmere, owing to a fire, in June 1941 he was posted to the new all NZ 485 Squadron at Redhill, moving to Kenley that October.
By 25 January 1942, Jack was a flight commander and had flown 67 operational flights, including 18 sweeps over France, 3 scrambles, 30 bomber escort sorties, 5 Air Sea Rescue patrols, and 8 convoy patrols. On that day, the Kenley Wing was to sweep over France with the Northolt Wing, but as the latter failed to arrive at the rendezvous over Hastings, the Kenley Spitfires set course for Le Touquet. Inexplicably, Jack’s Spitfire plunged into the sea from high altitude, his oxygen supply doubtless having failed, and he remains missing.
Left behind was a young widow, Marguerite, whom I knew, and who went to New Zealand and lived with her in-laws for some years after Jack’s death. Ironically, the week Jack was reported missing, a propaganda film was released featuring 485 Squadron, in which Jack was the primary focus – causing the family great distress.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.