Air Force Career of Neill Currie

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The Air Force Career of Neill Edward Currie 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 and three years later was studying for a second degree at Queens University.

Training

Enlisted in Winnipeg, 20 February 1942. Trained at No.2 ITS (graduated 12 September 1942), No.15 EFTS (graduated 4 December 1942) and No.12 SFTS (graduated 16 April 1943). Commissioned April 1943 as "J25296".

Crew 103

Currie was in crew #103 of 178. Together they flew 33 sorties between June and October 1944. At least Flying Officer Jim Vipond was also awarded the distinguished flying cross.

  • Flying Officer Neill Edward Currie
  • Flying Officer James French "Jim" Vipond [1]
  • 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.

Statistics

In total, 4,460 Distinguished Flying Crosses have been awarded to Canadians, plus 256 first bars and 6 second bars (see below). [2]

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) [3]

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. [4]

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. [5]

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.

Bluenose Squadron 434 "Bluenose"

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 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 officer in the Bluenose squadron, which had about 1,300 men total, was

W/C Frank H. Watkins (1915-2006) 13 June 1944 - 29 August 1944, [6]

and

W/C A. P. Blackburn 30 August 1944 - 7 April 1945 [7]

Number 6 Group

The 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.


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 1942: 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) [8] "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) [9]

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."

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

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.





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