Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Airmen's Stories - F/O J E Storrar

Wing Commander (Flying Officer during the Battle) James Storrar, who has died aged 74, notched up 15 confirmed kills as a Hurricane pilot during the Battle of Britain.

"Jas" Storrar, as he was always known, was a teenager when war broke out. He immediately volunteered for the RAF and flew missions to protect the troops of the BEF as they were being evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. By mid-August of 1940, Storrar had already been credited with nine kills and was a relative veteran when Germany launched its massive bombing raids on Britain.

At first, seeing so many German aircraft filling the sky I thought we must lose the war he recalled. As the battle escalated Storrar, flying with No 145 Squadron, was often compelled to "scramble" three times before tea. On his third sortie one summer's day he found himself flying alongside a Ju87 Stuka.
I could quite clearly see the pilot looking at me. I could see his hand on the stick  Storrar later said. He sent the Stuka blazing into the sea. That day No 145 was credited with 25 kills but lost six of their own.

I looked no further than breakfast the next day, of having a cup of tea and offering up a silent prayer. When we lost six pilots I didn't think of them. I thought of me. As long as it wasn't me it didn't matter.

James Eric Storrar was born at Ormskirk on June 24 1920. His family had run a veterinary practice at Chester since the early 18th century and he was educated at Chester City and County School. In October 1938 he joined the RAF on a short service commission. The next year he was posted to No 145, then flying Blenheim bombers from Croydon. In March 1940 the Squadron converted to Hurricanes. After the Battle of Britain, the depleted squadron was sent to Drem in Scotland to rest and re-form and Storrar served briefly with 421 Flight, a specialised interception unit, before moving to No 73, another Hurricane squadron. In November 1940 the squadron sailed to Takoradi on the coast of West Africa, aboard the aircraft carrier ‘Furious’. It then flew the "stepping stone" route across Africa to Egypt. After a brief detachment to No 274 the pilots returned to their own unit.

On April 4 1941, Storrar spotted a Lockheed Lodestar which had made a forced landing in the desert. He put down and discovered the Lodestar was General Wavell's personal aircraft. After Storrar had helped the Lodestar's pilot to get his engine going, he found that his own aircraft would not start. He was obliged to walk across the desert to Tobruk. A few days later Storrar was enjoying a rest at Takoradi when he was asked to ferry a Hurricane to Freetown. Bad weather forced him down in the jungle; it took him two days and three nights to walk more than 70 miles to the Firestone rubber plantation near Monrovia. In 1943 he returned to Britain. Aged 22, he received command of No 65, a Spitfire squadron flying bomber escorts and fighter sweeps over France and the Low Countries.
In the course of a screaming dive on a Me109 Storrar overstressed his Spitfire which had to be written-off after landing. The next year he moved to a Transport Command unit flying an air delivery service, but returned to operations in the autumn of 1944 as commander of No 64. He later commanded Nos 165 and 234 squadrons and in 1946 was posted to Italy to command No 239 Wing, equipped with Mustangs.

The next year Storrar was offered an extended commission. He opted instead to study veterinary science at Edinburgh University and later joined the family practice. In 1949 he joined No 603, a Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron and resumed flying. He went on to command No 610, the County of Chester Auxiliary Squadron.

Storrar was awarded the DFC in 1940, a Bar in 1943.

"Jas" Storrar was a giant of a man. Well over 6ft tall, he was barely able to squeeze into the cockpit of his fighter. Over the years he retained something of the flamboyant style of a Battle of Britain pilot. His jackets were lined with red silk and his Jaguar XJS 12 bore the registration JAS.

He was married, and had three sons and a daughter.

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