away one of his engines was on fire.” The leader of Stratton’s section had previously damaged the same aircraft.
Stratton was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross in November 1940 for his time with No 1 Squadron. The citation reads “In his first combat on 29th March, 1940, this officer assisted in shooting down two Messerschmitt 110s. Since the 10th of May, he has been in five combats and was a member of a flight which shot down eight Messerschmitt 110s near Laon. In all, he has personally shot down five enemy aircraft. His courage and ability are both of a very high standard.”
From July 1940 until early 1943 Stratton was a flying instructor in what was then Southern Rhodesia with an element of the Empire Air Training Scheme. In June 1943 he returned to active service and became the Commanding Officer of No 134 Squadron RAF, then equipped with Spitfires and based in the Middle East. In November of that year the Squadron moved to India equipped with Hurricanes and operating in the Burma campaign. At the end of 1943 Stratton transferred from the RAF to the RNZAF although he retained his command of No 134 Squadron.
In May 1944 he was awarded a Bar to his DFC. The citation noted “Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1940 Squadron Leader Stratton has completed many more operational sorties. He has been in command of his Squadron since June 1943 both in the Middle East and India. In the Arakan district, this officer has led many patrols on escort and low level operations. On at least two occasions, by his coolness and initiative, he has led his formation out of danger on the approach of enemy aircraft. An excellent leader and Squadron commander, Squadron Leader Stratton has destroyed at least four enemy aircraft.” The next month he received a mention in despatches for his distinguished service with No 134 Squadron.
In September 1944 Stratton returned to New Zealand and the RNZAF. He then held a number of key staff and command appointments including Officer Commanding Flying Training
AFN67 FEBRUARY 06
AND DISTINGUISHED POST-WAR LEADER
AVM WILLIAM HECTOR STRATTON 22.07.16 - 27.12.05
Wing at Wigram, was a member of the Operations Staff of the British Commonwealth Air Forces’ Headquarters with the Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan, attended the Joint Services Staff College in Britain and undertook an attachment to the RAF in the United Kingdom and Germany to gain experience in fighter operations. He was Commanding Officer of the Base at Ohakea in 1954, the Head of the New Zealand Defence Liaison Staff in Australia in 1960 and in 1963 he was appointed Head, New Zealand Liaison Staff at London Headquarters in the rank of Air Commodore, a post which he held until February 1967.
Stratton was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1963. In July 1969 he was promoted to Air Vice- Marshal and appointed Chief of Air Staff and Air Officer Commanding the RNZAF. In 1970 he was made a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB) in recognition of his distinguished service to the RNZAF, particularly as Chief of the Air Staff. He retired from the RNZAF in July 1971. Air Marshal Sir Richard Bolt, who served under AVM Stratton and who himself was later to become Chief of the Air Staff and the Chief of Defence Staff, got to know Stratton ‘pretty well’ when he accompanied him on various overseas visits.
He was universally supported and admired as leader of the Service to which he had given so much
Stratton had been promoted to Air Commodore in December 1961 and appointed Assistant Chief of Air Staff. It was during this period that he was involved with the selection of the Orion and the Hercules aircraft as replacements for the RNZAF’s maritime and transport aircraft. At that time the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice- Marshal Ian Morrison was advocating the long-range transport Squadron re-equipping with C130 Hercules and with a maritime version of that aircraft replacing the RNZAF’s ageing Sunderlands.
‘Throughout his career his personal qualities became widely recognised and respected by all with whom he served. Not surprisingly, at the culmination of his career as Chief of Air Staff, he was universally supported and admired as leader of the Service to which he had given so much.
‘Outstanding as he had been as a role model, it will be his personal qualities that are remembered most of all by those who are still able to look back on their own service under his command.
‘Quiet and reserved by nature and extremely modest, he disliked unnecessary fuss, was conscientious and determined in all he did. He was approachable but very direct and to the point in all his dealings with others. He was never one to avoid hard decisions and was always fair and considerate to all under his command.’
Air Commodore Stratton headed an evaluation team to the United States. On his return he surprised everyone with a recommendation that a maritime version of the C130 Hercules was not the answer and that the new anti-submarine aircraft, the Lockheed P3 Orion was a better option. His arguments were so convincing that AVM Morrison, a practical man, was quite happy to change his tune. The result is that today the Orion, with upgrades, continues to patrol our vast oceanic areas and deter seaborne challenges to New Zealand’s national interests, and the Hercules aircraft continue to be the backbone of Defence’s air transport capability.
On his retirement from the RNZAF in 1971 he settled in Perth and successfully managed his own import business. At the time of his death aged 89 years, he had for some years been the oldest of those who had held the post of RNZAF Chief of Air Staff and were still living. When Stratton returned to New Zealand a few years ago he made a brief ‘no-fuss’ visit to the Base at Ohakea and was said to have been “happy with its organization”!
AVM Stratton is survived by his wife, son and two daughters.
Air Vice-Marshal John Hamilton, Chief of Air Force