In March, Jim was promoted to Squadron Leader and given command of 274 Squadron of the RAF. Twelve planes from 274 Squadron, with Jim in the lead, took off from Termoli for a staging mission near Rome. Jim was climbing over the Apennines, the mountain range that runs down the middle of Italy, when his plane developed a Glycol leak. Without Glycol, the Spitfire quickly overheated and the cockpit filled with choking white smoke. Jim planned to bail out but he realized it was too late to bail. He spotted a small clearing right on top of the mountain and made a crash landing when the engine blew up. Flying overhead, his stunned squadron mates circled the wreckage, watching flames consume the Spitfire. They saw no movement on the ground and returned to their base, reporting that their popular Squadron Leader had been lost.
Adapted from: Hehner, Barbara. Desert Hawk: The True Story of Stocky Edwards, World War II Flying Ace (Kindle Locations 59-61). HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition.