* Air Vice-Marshal William Stratton, CB, CBE, DFC and bar. Pilot. Died aged 89

Hastings-born William Stratton was one of the first fighter pilots to see action with the Royal Air Force in World War II.

With the RAF's 1 Squadron flying Hurricanes, he was sent to France as the Germans were invading and sweeping the British Expeditionary Force towards Dunkirk.

He was credited with sharing in the destruction of the first German Messerschmitt 110 to be shot down by the RAF in France.

Stratton had been keen on flying from early times in Hawkes Bay and he obtained his pilot's licence with the Western Federated Flying Club.

By 1937 he was in England with the RAF.

The citation for his first Distinguished Flying Cross awarded in November 1940 noted that in his first combat on March 29, 1940, "This officer assisted in shooting down two Messerschmitt 110s...his courage and ability are both of a very high standard".

Altogether he was credited with shooting down at least five aircraft and received a bar to his DFC when a squadron leader with 134 Squadron in 1943, leading it in the Middle East and India.

He left the RAF in May 1944 and joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

There followed many career appointments including being commanding officer of Ohakea and finishing his career as Chief of the Air Staff from 1969 to 1971.

Air Vice-Marshal Stratton died recently in Perth. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy.