The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J M Strickland
James Murray Strickland was born in Iloilo, Philippines, where his father was working, in 1918. He was educated at Kings School, Bruton. While there he and his brother spent holidays with a school friend of their father's, Captain WS Harvey MC and family, who lived at Ivybridge, Devon.
Strickland joined the RAF on a short service commission and shortly afterwards married Captain Harvey's daughter.
Strickland began his initial training course on 21st December 1936. He was posted to 5 FTS Sealand on 20th March and with his training completed joined 213 Squadron at Church Fenton on 23rd October 1937.
He was still serving with 213 in 1940. On 16th May he flew one of six Hurricanes of 213 from Wittering to Lille/Marcq, to reinforce 87 Squadron, which was operating from there. There were no available 87 Squadron pilots to fly these aircraft so Strickland and the other five pilots elected to stay and fight with 87. Only Strickland and one other pilot survived and they rejoined 'A' Flight of 213 at Biggin Hill on 18th May.
The flight flew to France daily on the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd May to operate during the day from French airfields and to return to Biggin Hill each evening. Strickland was shot down near Tournai in Hurricane P2687 by Me109s of 9./JG26 on the 19th and baled out, wounded in one arm. He sustained a leg wound when he was fired at by French troops as he floated down. He did not fly again with 213 until 11th July.
On 11th August Strickland destroyed a Ju88. On the 12th he assumed command of 'B' Flight and was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant on the 19th. He destroyed a Me109 on 12th August, destroyed a Me110 and a Ju87 on the 15th, destroyed a Me109 and damaged another on the 25th, probably destroyed a Ju88 on 18th September and shared in the destruction of a Me110 on 27th September. In this engagement his Hurricane, P3979, was damaged by return fire and he made a crash-landing at Horne, near Redhill, unhurt.
Strickland made another crash-landing on 15th October in Hurricane VK-A V6544 after a combat with a Me109 over the Swanage area, injured. It was his final sortie with 213. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940).
On 17th December 1940 Strickland was posted to 56 OTU Sutton Bridge as an instructor. On 14th August 1941 he was involved in a flying accident while serving as a Flight Lieutenant with 130 Squadron, operating Spitfires from Portreath. His Spitfire IIa P7556 struck the roof of a dispersal hut there and he was killed when his Spitfire crashed.
Strickland was 22. He is buried in Ivybridge Cemetery. His daughter was born a month after his death and named Geraldine, abbreviated to "Gerry" as a tribute to her father who was often known as "Jerry" or "Jimmy" in the family.
Additional research and portrait courtesy of Mrs. Gerry Gardner (daughter).
Strickland's brother, F/O John Strickland RAFVR, was lost on 23rd October 1943 serving with 261 Squadron. His Hurricane IIb AP930 dived into the ground near Arakan, cause unknown. With no known grave he is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, as well as on the grave at Ivybridge.