Difference between revisions of "Air Force Career of Neill Currie"

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In 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which only about 1% of RCAF men received.
 
In 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which only about 1% of RCAF men received.
  
His only combat tour was from June to October 1944, which involved 33 sorties bombing various targets in France and Germany with the other 6 members of crew 103 of squadron 434 of group 6 of the RCAF; such a tour of duty had a survival chance of 37.86% based on squadron 434's total plane loss rate.
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His only combat tour was from June to October 1944, during which time he flew 33 sorties, bombing various targets in France and Germany with the other six members of crew 103 of squadron 434 of group 6 of the RCAF; such a tour of duty had a survival chance of 37.86% based on squadron 434's total plane loss rate.
  
 
==Training==
 
==Training==

Revision as of 07:36, 8 June 2019

A Handley Page Halifax of the same type likely flown by Neill Currie in 1944

The Air Force Career of Flying Officer Neill Edward Currie (service number J25296) began when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on 20 February 1942 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He completed a distinguished tour of duty overseas in 1944. He also trained pilots from September 1947 to January 1949.

In 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which only about 1% of RCAF men received.

His only combat tour was from June to October 1944, during which time he flew 33 sorties, bombing various targets in France and Germany with the other six members of crew 103 of squadron 434 of group 6 of the RCAF; such a tour of duty had a survival chance of 37.86% based on squadron 434's total plane loss rate.

Training

Neill, middle, with his brothers Jack and Clyde, who also served in the RCAF, although not overseas. Picture taken at Jack and his wife's house on Byng Place in Winnipeg, 1943.

Currie enlisted in Winnipeg, 20 February 1942. He trained at No.2 ITS (graduated 12 September 1942), No.15 EFTS (graduated 4 December 1942) and No.12 SFTS (graduated 16 April 1943).

Currie was commissioned April 1943 with service number J25296.

Service Overseas

Currie served overseas on a bomber crew in active service from June to October 1944.

Three thousand miles across a hunted ocean they came, wearing on the shoulder of their tunics the treasured name, "Canada," telling the world their origin. Young men and women they were, some still in their teens, fashioned by their Maker to love, not to kill, but proud and earnest in their mission to stand, and if it had to be, to die, for their country and for freedom. One day, when the history of the twentieth century is finally written, it will be recorded that when human society stood at the crossroads and civilization itself was under siege, the Royal Canadian Air Force was there to fill the breach and help give humanity the victory. And all those who had a part in it will have left to posterity a legacy of honour, of courage, and of valour that time can never despoil.
— from a speech by Father J.P. Lardie, Chaplain 419, 428 Squadron, at the dedication of the RCAF Memorial at Middleton St. George, 15 June 1985

He was in crew #103 of Squadron 434 ("Bluenose"), of No.6 Group Bomber Command of the RCAF.

Crew 103

Currie was in crew #103 of 178 in Squadron 434. Together they flew 33 sorties between June and October 1944. They flew new Halifax Mark III planes that had just arrived at the Squadron in May 1944. [1]

Within this crew, at least Flying Officer Jim Vipond was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

  • Pilot: Flying Officer Neill Edward Currie
  • Navigator: Flying Officer James French "Jim" Vipond [2], who later became an award-winning sports journalist
  • Flying Officer C.D. Rae
  • Flying Officer W.J. Knapp
  • Sergeant G.A. Leach
  • Petty Officer L.B. Johnston
  • Sergeant G.E.J. Boyd (of Westlock, Alberta)

In December 1944 he received citations for his efforts:

This officer has completed a tour of operations including attacks on such targets as Hamburg, Stuttgart, Emden, and centres in the Ruhr area. He has at all times displayed the greatest determination and tenacity. On more than one occasion his aircraft has been damaged whilst in the target area but this has not deterred him from pressing home the attack. He is a highly skilled and courageous pilot whose example is worthy of emulation by other members of the squadron.
— Military Superior, 10 December 1944
completed...numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which [he has] invariably displayed the utmost courage and devotion to duty.
— Recommendation, 10 December 1944

He was back in Winnipeg for Christmas 1944, arriving 20 December. He was photographed for the Winnipeg Free Press front page, published 21 December 1944.

Bluenose Squadron 434 "Bluenose"

The No. 434 Squadron badge, featuring the Bluenose sailing boat, although the squadron was named after an old word for Haligonians

Currie's crew was a part of the Bluenose Squadron of 1,300 men stationed in northeast England.

The Number 434 "Bluenose" Squadron was a Royal Canadian Air Force heavy bomber squadron, formed in June 1943 as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force Number 6 Group. It was named after an old name for Haligonians, and so it fittingly took its emblem from the schooner "Bluenose", a successful racing ship and fishing boat, which became a symbol of Nova Scotia.

The squadron operated the Handley Page Halifax from 12 August 1943-18 December 1944, and the Avro Lancaster from 24 December 1944 until the end of the war. Originally the squadron converted to the Canadian-built Lancaster B.Mk X, but this was soon supplemented by a number of Lancaster B.Mk Is. The squadron returned to Canada in June 1945, and was disbanded on 5 September 1945 after the Japanese surrender.

Neill's commanding officers in the Bluenose squadron, which had about 1,300 men total, were

Wing Commander Frank H. Watkins (1915-2006) (13 June 1944 - 29 August 1944), [3]

and

Wing Commander A. P. Blackburn (30 August 1944 - 7 April 1945) [4]

Royal Air Force Number 6 Bomber Group

The Number 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group [5] of the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command [6] was a unique bomber group, run by the RCAF. The other groups 1 to 5 and 8 were Royal Air Force bomber groups. Other RAF groups numbered all the way up to 200, but they were not bomber groups.

Number 6 Group operated out of airfields in Yorkshire, England from 1943 to 1945. At the peak of its strength, No. 6 Group consisted of 14 squadrons, with about 21,000 men, which was about 10% of total RCAF strength.

Statistics

During the Second World War, the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded: 4,018 to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), plus 213 first bars and six second bars.

The entire 434th squadron flew 2582 sorties in WW2; Uncle Neill flew in 33 of those. "Unit personnel received six bars to the Distinguished Flying Cross."

In total, 4,460 Distinguished Flying Crosses have been awarded to Canadians, plus 256 first bars and 6 second bars (see below). [7]

Since peak RCAF strength was 215,000 in January 1944, and probably double this actually served over the course of the way, only about 1% of RCAF men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross!

In squadron 434, 347 people died over 2582 sorties, with 75 aircraft lost. So each sortie had a % chance of losing the plane of 2.90%.

The probability of surviving intact across 33 sorties was 37.86%.

This is consistent with the statement: 1374 airmen volunteered for this squadron, tragically 347 made the ultimate sacrifice, their pictures and written memories are numerous. (25% death rate) [8]

No. 6 group flew a total of 40,822 sorties during the war, so squadron 434 was 6.3% of the total for No. 6 group. [9]

Since there were 1,300 men in this squadron, group 6 likely had about 21,000 men. Total RCAF strength at its peak was 215,000 in January 1944. [10]

13,000 men died, making the probability of death 6% as a % of peak strength January 1944, but high turnover probably brings this % down to at least just the 3% experienced by squadron 434, and likely even lower.

Neill Edward Currie, Military Timeline

20 February 1942: Enlisted in Winnipeg

12 September 1942: Graduated from Number 2 ITS

4 December 1942: Graduated from Number 15 EFTS

16 April 1943: Graduated from Number 12 SFTS

April 1943: Commissioned

21 June to 28 October 1944: Flew 33 sorties (167 hours 40 minutes)

The sortie list was as follows: (33 sorties total)

21 June 1944 - Oismemont, France (4.10, second pilot)

24 June 1944 - Bonnetot (3.50)

25 June 1944 - Gorenflos (4.10, holed by flak)

27 June 1944 - Wizernes (3.50)

1 July 1944 - Biennais (4.15)

4 July 1944 - Biennais (3.55)

18 July 1944 - Caen (4.50)

18 July 1944 - Vaires (3.50)

20 July 1944 - Anderbelck (4.00)

23 July 1944 - St. Nazaire (5.55)

25 July 1944 - Stuttgart (8.20) [11] "Subsequently, the Allied air forces struck Stuttgart four times between 25–29 July, dropping some 73,000 bombs on the city."

28 July 1944 - Hamburg (5.45, fighters)

3 August 1944 - Foret de Nieppe (4.05)

4 August 1944 - Bois de Casson (5.05)

7 August 1944 - La Hogue (4.50)

9 August 1944 - La Breteque (4.25)

12 August 1944 - La Neuville (4.15)

14 August 1944 - Falaise (4.45)

15 August 1944 - Soesterburg (3.30)

16 August 1944 - Kiel (5.05) (RCAF photo PL-31958 (ex UK-14212 dated 24 August 1944) shows Sergeant G.E.J. Boyd (Westlock, Alberta) on left and F/O N.E. Currie (Winnipeg) on return from raid on Kiel. No citation other than \"completed...numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which [he has] invariably displayed the utmost courage and devotion to duty.\"

18 August 1944 - Bremen (5.45)

6 September 1944 - Emden (4.10)

10 September 1944 - Le Havre (4.30)

11 September 1944 - Castrop Rauxel (5.15, bags of flak)

15 September 1944 - Kiel (6.15)

27 September 1944 - Sterkrade (5.20, badly holed by flak)

6 October 1944 - Dortmund (6.40)

9 October 1944 - Bochum (6.55)

14 October 1944 - Duisburg (6.00)

14 October 1944 - Duisburg (6.35)

23 October 1944 - Essen (5.55)

25 October 1944 - Hamburg (5.25) [12]

Target: oil refineries

Mission 688: 455 B-17s dispatched to hit the Harburg (221, including those of the 447th BG)and Rhenania oil refineries (214) at Hamburg. 297 B-17s dispatched to hit the primary hit secondaries, Harburg (179) and Rhenania oil refineries (106) at Hamburg.(cloud cover limited accuracy, devastigation of Harburg city

28 October 1944 - Cologne (6.05)

8 December 1944: Repatriated

10 December 1944: Recommendation for "completed...numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which [he has] invariably displayed the utmost courage and devotion to duty."

Winnipeg Free Press, front page, 21 December 1944. The caption reads: "These airmen arrived in Winnipeg from overseas Wednesday over C.P.R. and C.N.R. lines in time to spend Christmas with their families. ... In the upper right picture Flying Officer Neill Currie is shown with his nephews Douglas, left, and Alan Currie, whom he met for the first time. They are sons of his brothers, aircraftman 2nd class (AC2) Jack Currie and leading aircraftman (LAC) Clyde Currie, both in the R.C.A.F. here."

20 December 1944: Repatriation complete, arrived at Number 2 Air Command in Winnipeg. Arrived in Winnipeg from overseas on CPR and CNR rail lines. Met Doug Currie and Alan Currie, photographed for Winnipeg Free Press front page, 21 December 1944.

20 March 1945: To Number 5 Release Centre, Winnipeg [13]

26 March 1945: Released

5 April 1945: Distinguished flying cross award effective date as per London Gazette dated 13 April 1945.

16 September 1947 to 27 January 1949: RCAF service again.

Awards

Neill Currie's medals

Neill Currie served with distinction during the war, being awarded the following medals, in the order in which they are to be worn:

  • Distinguished Flying Cross (no bars)
  • 1939-45 Star
  • France and Germany Star
  • Defence Medal
  • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (Worn with marching figures to the front. With a bar for 60 days outside of Canada)
  • War Medal 1939-45

Currie bequeathed his medals to his nephew and fellow RCAF pilot Allan Currie, who as of 2019 still has them in his possession.

Sources

Supplement to the London Gazette, 13 April 1945

DHist file 181.009 D.3260 (RG.24 Vol.20637)

http://www.dfcsociety.net/society-history/

http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/squadron_434.html

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/medals-decorations/details/46

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._434_Squadron_RCAF

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/medals-decorations/details/46

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._434_Squadron_RCAF