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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J M Strawson

 

John Mawer Strawson was born to a farming family on 13th July 1916 at Stragglethorpe, Nottinghamshire.

He was educated at High Pavement School, Nottingham and later went to a school in Ruthin, North Wales. He joined the RAFVR on 18th April 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot and carried out his elementary flying training at 27 E&RFTS Tollerton. He flew his first solo on 11th June 1938.

 

 

He was called up on 1st September 1939 and went to 3 ITW Hastings followed by a course starting in May 1940 at 14 FTS Cranfield. With this completed he was posted to 7 OTU Hawarden on 2nd September 1940 to convert to Spitfires. He then joined 616 Squadron at Kirton-in Lindsey on 16th September.

He was posted on to 603 Squadron at Hornchurch on 3rd October 1940.

The squadron ORB for 7th October does not mention Strawson but other reports have him being shot down into the Thames Estuary, he was able to wade ashore though injured and was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham. He rejoined 603 on 28th November.

He was again admitted to hospital on 13th December 1940, this time to Southend General Hospital, after colliding with a bus on his motor cycle. He rejoined 603 after a short stay.

Strawson crashed when landing at Drem on 12th January 1941. On the 24th he was with ‘B’ Flight when it intercepted a Ju88. He was the only pilot able to open fire before the enemy aircraft disappeared into cloud.

On 10th May 1941 Strawson joined 260 Squadron, then at Drem, preparing to embark for the Middle East. The squadron embarked on the carrier HMS Victorious on the 19th. It transferred to the HMS Ark Royal at Gibraltar and on 14th June it flew off to Malta.

After refuelling, 260 took off for Egypt on the 16th and eventually arrived at Haifa in Palestine on 10th August for air defence duties. 260 combined with 450 (RAAF) Squadron to carry out ground attacks in the Syrian campaign, on such targets as the Vichy French airfield at Baalbeck. On 16th October 1941 260 moved to the Western Desert, to give support to the army and to escort Allied bombers.

In December 1941 Strawson was promoted to Flight Sergeant. In February 1942 the squadron was taken off operations to re-equip with Kittyhawks.

Strawson was commissioned in early March and the squadron was back in action, supporting the army. During August 1941 he led the squadron on twenty-three operational sorties and on twenty-five squadron exercises. Strawson was appointed Acting Squadron Leader on 22nd September 1942.

On 16th November 1942 he was part of a ground party, surveying sites for advanced landing grounds. Whilst driving a Jeep he struck a landmine and was killed instantly. S/Ldr. BM Terry was travelling in the same jeep and was also killed.

Strawson was awarded the DFC (gazetted 2nd March 1943) for his service with 260 Squadron. He is buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya.

 

 

 

 

The villagers of Low Marnham presented an urn to the local church in his memory, which is still used to fill the font for christenings. Strawson’s youngest brother, Bill, unveiled a plaque to John’s memory in 2000 and dedicated an avenue of lime trees to him at Blyborough, near Lincoln (below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above cemetery images courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project www.twgpp.org

 

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