Air Force Career of Neill Currie

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An Avro Lancaster 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 and two of his six crewmates (Jim Vipond and Cuthbert Rae) were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which only about 10% of men in his 1300-man squadron - and 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 undoubtedly began with basic training at a Manning Depot. After four or five weeks, evidently his instructors felt he was an appropriate candidate for the aircrew stream. His brothers Jack and Clyde were instead placed in groundcrew stream.

Following the normal progression, Currie spent four weeks at Number 2 Initial Training School (ITS) in Regina (graduated 12 September 1942), eight weeks at Number 15 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS), also in Regina (graduated 4 December 1942), and 16 weeks at Number 12 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), in Brandon, Manitoba (graduated 16 April 1943).

Currie was commissioned April 1943 with service number J25296.

[Neill told me he] was the first graduate of the RCAF to be presented his wings by his mother, my grandmother (Anna Currie). Normally they are presented by the commander. He had graduated with the highest standing ever....after the war he completed his degree at the University of Manitoba and then attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
— Doug Currie, email to Michael Currie, 18 June 2014

At some point during the following 13 months of non-combat duties (unknown), he went overseas, since his first sortie was in June 1944, just after the Normandy landings.

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. They flew 33 sorties from RAF Croft in North East England.

Crew 103 Sortie Destinations, 1944
  • Yellow = France. Sorties 1-10 (21 June - 23 July 1944)
  • Red = France. Sorties 11-18 (25 July - 14 August 1944)
  • Blue = Germany. Sorties 19-26 (15 August - 27 September 1944)
  • Turquoise = Germany (Ruhr Area). Sorties 27-33 (6 October - 28 October 1944)
I did over the years have a number of conversations with my Uncle Neil [sic] Currie about his involvement in the war. He flew about 35 [it was 33] night bombing missions over Germany [and France and the Netherlands] and returned safely on each occasion, albeit on a couple of flights with numerous [holes in] the plane, having been hit with [flak].
— Doug Currie, email to Michael Currie, 18 June 2014

His first combat missions were just days after the successful amphibious Normandy Landings in France, on 6 June 1944. Until mid-August, his crew mostly bombed locations within France.

In August and September, his crew flew missions increasingly in German territory, reflecting the overall advance the allies were making on the ground and the increased air superiority they enjoyed over the European continent.

A simulation of an Avro Lancaster on a night bombing raid, the same kind of raid flown by Neill Currie in 1944

In October he and his crew participated in the Operation Hurricane, a 24-hour bombing operation in the Ruhr area to demonstrate the Allies' near-total air superiority. His final mission was to Cologne, on 28 October 1944, where he was part of a fleet of 733 aircraft that caused "enormous damage".

[The Lancaster Bomber crews'] contribution to peace in Europe has often gone unsung and has sometimes been denigrated; yet it was a major contribution to that final victory.

For the bomber offensive had opened up a second front of vast complexity over the skies of Germany, long before the allies could gather the resources and build up the overwhelming superiority required for the invasion of Europe.

The blood, sweat, and tears they shed and the dangers and sacrifies they faced to humble the Nazi war machine must never be forgotten."
— Air Chief Marshall, Sir Michael Beetham, Chief of the Air Staff, Royal Air Force [sourced from Ted Currie [2], Muskoka Today, 5-16 May 1995]

Crew 103

Currie was in crew #103 of 178 in Squadron 434. From 21 June to 28 October 1944, crew 103 flew 33 sorties totalling 167 hours and 40 minutes' flight time in Europe. Each sortie averaged five hours in duration.

Lancaster bomber crew diagram. Source: [1]

According to a photo of rear gunner Les Johnston they flew an Avro Lancaster, but for some missions it is possible they flew the new Halifax Mark III planes that had just arrived at the Squadron in May 1944. [3]

Within this crew, three officers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC): Currie, Vipond, and Rae.

Role Rank Name Notes
Pilot Flying Officer Neill Edward Currie Awarded D.F.C. 13 April 1945 (24 June 1921 – 11 January 1995)
Navigator Flight Lieutenant James French "Jim" Vipond Awarded D.F.C. 21 September 1945. Later became an award-winning sports journalist for the Globe and Mail. (11 July 1911 - 4 December 1989)
Flight Engineer Sergeant Garfield E.J. "Garf" Boyd From Westlock, Alberta. (circa 1921 - 3 April 2013)
Mid gunner Sergeant G.A. Leach
Rear gunner Petty Officer Lester Burton "Les" Johnston From Muskoka, Ontario. Died 18 October 1983.
Bomb aimer Flying Officer Cuthbert David Rae Awarded D.F.C. 17 April 1945 [4]
Radio operator Flying Officer W.J. Knapp

Neill Currie

CURRIE, F/O Neill Edward (J25296) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.434 Squadron (crew 103) - Award effective 5 April 1945 as per London Gazette dated 13 April 1945 and AFRO 824/45 dated 18 May 1945. Born 1921 in Port Arthur, Ontario; home in Starbuck, Manitoba (bookkeeper, former COTC [University of Manitoba Canadian Officers Training Corps]); enlisted in Winnipeg, 20 February 1944 [actually 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. 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." DHist file 181.009 D.3260 (RG.24 Vol.20637) has recommendation dated 10 December 1944 when he had flown 33 sorties (167 hours 40 minutes), 21 June to 28 October 1944. Sortie list says his aircraft was holed by flak (25 June, Gorenflos), met fighters over Hamburg (28 July), and was badly holed by flak again (Sterkrade, 27 September). 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.
— Citation for DFC, London Gazette, 1945 [5]
Jim Vipond article on his DFC, circa 1945

Jim Vipond

Jim was 28, older than the others on his crew, and also acted as Squadron Navigation Leader for the entire 434 Squadron. His rank of Flight Lieutenant ranked above Flying Officer but below Squadron Leader.

He went on to be an award-winning columnist for the Globe and Mail. He attended crewmate Les Johnston's funeral in 1981.

VIPOND, F/L James French (J35759) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.434 Squadron (crew 103) - Award effective 8 September 1945 as per London Gazette dated 21 September 1945 and AFRO 1704/45 dated 9 November 1945. Born 1916 in Southport, England; home in Toronto (news reporter); enlisted there 27 June 1942. Trained at No.5 ITS (graduated 1 May 1943) and No.4 AOS (graduated 1 October 1943). Commissioned September 1943. Award presented 22 November 1948. No citation other than "completed...numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which [he has] invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty." DHist file 181.009 D.1941 (RG.9 Vol.20612) has recommendation dated 3 April 1945 when he had flown 28 sorties (156 hours 43 minutes), 24 June 1944 to 21 March 1945. As an outstanding navigator, Flight Lieutenant Vipond has completed numerous sorties against heavily defended targets such as Stuttgart and Hamburg. This officer has continuously exhibited skill and reliability worthy of high praise. As Squadron Navigation Leader, he has carried out his duties very efficiently, holding the high respect of all those under him, and proving himself a tower of strength to the squadron. His devotion to duty and fine offensive spirit have been an example worthy of emulation by all members of the squadron.
— Citation for DFC, London Gazette, 1945 [6]

Garf Boyd

Garf Boyd, circa 2013

Garfield E.F. "Garf" Boyd (1921 - 3 April 2013) spent his life in Westlock, Alberta. He married a woman called Blondie, who died in 2006, and had three children: Randy, Debbie, and Sandy, all of whom also remained in Westlock.

Dad [Garf] intended to stay in the RCAF but his father became ill in 1945 and as the oldest son came back to look after his mother & younger siblings. AND the rest is history. He didn't talk much about the raids etc until he was older either but he and other veterans in the area became very involved in promoting and growing the Westlock legion.
— Daughter Debbie Boyd, private email to Michael Currie, 22 August 2019
BOYD, GARFIELD (Garf) Garfield Boyd of Westlock, AB passed away on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 at the age of 92 years. He is survived by his children Debbie Boyd (Gerald Brost) of Westlock, Randy Boyd of Westlock and Sandy (Mark) Melzer of Westlock; grandchildren Christie (Kevin) of Sylvan Lake, Lisa (Darrell) of Flatbush, Lindsay (Adam) of Edmonton, Matthew and Morgan of Westlock; six great grandchildren Hayden, Sloan, Brynley, Justyce, Layla and Liv; also survived by one brother Lorne Boyd of Westlock, special family friend Nadine Sproule and numerous nieces and nephews. Garf was predeceased by his wife Blondie in 2006, sisters Ora, Bella and Pat. A Funeral Service will be held on Monday, April 8th, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at the Westlock Funeral Home Chapel. Donations gratefully accepted to Westlock Continuing Care Centre c/o 10004 – 105 Street, Westlock, AB T7P 1V2. Westlock Funeral Home & Crematorium Ltd.
— Obituary, April 2013, Westlock, Alberta [7]

Cuthbert Rae

RAE, F/O Cuthbert David (J35124) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.434 Squadron - Award effective 5 April 1945 as per London Gazette dated 17 April 1945 and AFRO 918/45 dated 1 June 1945. Born 1922 in Cupar, Saskatchewan; home there; enlisted Regina 19 November 1940. Trained at No.4 ITS (graduated 19 March 1943), No.8 BGS (graduated 23 July 1943) and No.5 AOS (graduated 3 September 1943). Commissioned 1943. Award presented 18 June 1949. Bomb aimer for F/O N.E. Currie's crew. DHist file 181.009 D.3260 (RG.24 Vol.20637) has recommendation dated 10 December 1944 when he had flown 33 sorties (167 hours 45 minutes), 20 April to 28 October 1944. Sterkrade incident was 27 September 1944. Flying Officer Rae has completed a tour of operations during which he has as bomb aimer participated in many operational sorties. At all times he has displayed great tenacity and a fine fighting spirit which combined with his outstanding keenness and devotion to duty have been most praiseworthy. On one occasion when engaged on a mission against Sterkrade his aircraft was subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire. During the bombing run the nose of his aircraft was shattered and Flying Officer Rae sustained cuts to his face and hands. Undaunted by these harassing circumstances this courageous officer returned to his position immediately and successfully completed the bombing run.
— Citation for DFC, London Gazette, 17 April 1945 [8] [9]

G.A. Leach

"Sergeant G.A. Leach" was the mid gunner, according to the crew list. At present there is no other information about him, including even his full name or Air Force registration number.

Les Johnston

Crew 103 rear gunner Les Johnston stands in front of his Lancaster rear turret, 1944
Yes it was my father Les Johnston that served with Neill Currie and I can tell you he thought very highly of him and all the other crew. He told me they were like brothers to him and felt he was lucky having served with them and having them as his fellow crew.

My father didn't talk very much about his time overseas during the war, but as he got older, I was able to get [to] talk to him regarding this. Unfortunately he passed away [on 18 October 1983] before I could talk to him again, and the only picture I have of him is of him standing at his turret holding the machine guns he used, and the plane was a Lancaster bomber. It's funny because in the picture, my dad's hair is dark, but when he came home my mom told me it had turned mostly white. I still have the medals he received and requested and got from [the Department] of Defense all his war time records, from when he was in training out on east coast to when he went over seas and returned.

Dad [Les Johnston] grew up near Huntsville Ontario in a small little farming community called Utterson Ontario where my grandparents ( dad's parents ) had a small farm. He didn't train out West but was sent to the east coast somewhere around Halifax Nova Scotia if I remember correctly.

I have dad's military records but their with my nephew right now who also has taken a great interest in his Poppa's war experience and Bryan writes for a living and the two of us hope to write a book regarding dad's war experience.

When dad did talk to me about the war he did talk about his crew mates, and did mention that he and the other crew had great trust in your great uncle Neill Currie as their pilot plus because of the chance they wouldn't come back grew to be like brothers and love each other like brothers. Dad said that they always felt with your great-uncle Neill Currie flying as pilot that they'd get home and they did some 33 times, which was quite amazing.

No, my dad never mentioned anything about the actual raids they went on or what [happened] during them, something I wish we could have talked about but I never pushed when I felt it was a subject he didn't want to discuss. I know he was close to his crew during the time he was overseas as they went [through] so much.
— Michael Burton "Mike" Johnston, son of Les Burton Johston, rear gunner in crew 103 with Currie. Email conversation with Michael Currie, 24 October 2018
A Lancaster Bomber had a crew of seven: pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, flight engineer, wireless operator, mid gunner and rear gunner. Each role needed a very particular set of skills. Source: BBC

W.J. Knapp

"Flying Officer W.J. Knapp" was the radio operator, according to the crew list. At present there is no other information about him, including even his full name or Air Force registration number.

Return home

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 [sic] 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."

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. Squadron 434 apparently had 347 total deaths.

From Les Johnston's biography above it does appear that Currie's crew 103 did fly the Lancaster, however. These sources appear to conflict but the photograph of Les Johnstone does appear to be definitive evidence they flew the Lancaster, not the Halifax.

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), [10]

and

Wing Commander A. P. Blackburn (30 August 1944 - 7 April 1945) [11]

Royal Air Force Number 6 Bomber Group

The Number 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group [12] of the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command [13] 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; Currie's crew 103 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). [14]

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. About 100 Bluenose Squadron men received DFCs, and an additional 30 received other awards. So about 10% of the squadron served with this distinction.

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) [15].

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. [16]

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. [17]

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

1942 - April 1943: Training

Date Event
20 February 1942 Enlisted in Winnipeg at Number 2 British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP)

"Trainees like Currie began their military careers at a Manning Depot where they learned to bathe, shave, shine boots, polish buttons, maintain their uniforms, and otherwise behave in the required manner. There were two hours of physical education every day and instruction in marching, rifle drill, foot drill, saluting, and other routines.

After four or five weeks, a selection committee decided whether the trainee would be placed in the aircrew or groundcrew stream. Aircrew "Wireless Air Gunner" candidates went directly to a Wireless School. "Air Observer" and "Pilot" aircrew candidates went to an Initial Training School."

12 September 1942 Graduated in Regina after 4 weeks in Number 2 Initial Training School (ITS)
4 December 1942 Graduated in Regina after 8 weeks in Number 15 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)
16 April 1943 Graduated in Brandon, Manitoba, after 16 weeks in Number 12 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) For the first 8 weeks the trainee was part of an intermediate training squadron; for the next 6 weeks an advanced training squadron and for the final 2 weeks training was conducted at a Bombing & Gunnery School.[2] The Service schools were military establishments run by the RCAF or the RAF. Neill Currie was in the bomber pilot stream (as opposed to the fighter pilot stream), so he learned multi-engine technique in an Airspeed Oxford, Avro Anson or Cessna Crane.
April 1943 Commissioned. 1 year gap - unknown. Eventually, a year later in 1944?, posted to RAF Croft, near Darlington in North East England.


Sorties 1-10: France

Currie's first missions were mostly in France, close to the coast, attacking V-1 flying bomb sites.

Crew 103 Sorties 1-10

They would presumably take off from RAF Croft around midnight GMT and return approximately five hours later. Presumably the time noted in the logs shown below is their return time (in GMT).

Date Time Sortie Event
21 June 1944 04:10 1 Oisemont, France (Currie was second pilot) "322 aircraft - 165 Halifaxes, 142 Lancasters, 15 Mosquitos - 3, 6 and 8 Groups attacked 3 V-1 flying bomb sites. Because of cloud, 2 of the raids were abandoned after only 17 aircraft had bombed; the third target, at St Martin l'Hortier, was bombed through 10/10ths cloud. No aircraft lost." [18]
24 June 1944 03:50 2 Bonnetot [perhaps this log entry was meant to be "Tôtes"?] Neill's 23rd birthday; His second combat mission, and his first mission as pilot.
25 June 1944 04:10 3 Gorenflos (holed by flak).
27 June 1944 03:50 4 Wizernes
1 July 1944 04:15 5 Biennais
4 July 1944 03:55 6 Biennais [19]
7? July 1944 04:50 7 Caen "467 aircraft - 283 Lancasters, 164 Halifaxes, 20 Mosquitos - of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups in a major effort to assist in the Normandy land battle. The Canadian 1st and British 2nd Armies were held up by a series of fortified village strongpoints north of Caen." [20]
18 July 1944 03:50 8 Vaires-sur-Marne "110 British bombers attack the railway yards at Vaires-sur-Marne, losing two Halifaxes" [21]
20 July 1944 04:00 9 Anderbelck (whose name is not attested, but apparently was located at 50 48 33 N, 02 17 15 E [22]) "369 British bombers attack seven V-weapon sites, hitting six of them and losing one Lancaster" [23]
23 July 1944 05:55 10 St. Nazaire

Sorties 11-18: France

Two missions deep into German terrority, more V-1 bombing missions, and Normandy landing troop support, marred by an incident of friendly fire in Falaise.

Crew 103 Sorties 11-18
Date Time Sortie Event
25 July 1944 08:20 11 Stuttgart

[24] "This was the first of 3 heavy raids on Stuttgart in 5 nights... The raids caused the most serious damage of the war in the central districts of Stuttgart which, being situated in a series of narrow valleys, had eluded Bomber Command for several years. They were now devastated and most of Stuttgart's public and cultural buildings were destroyed... Subsequently, the Allied air forces struck Stuttgart four times between 25–29 July, dropping some 73,000 bombs on the city."

28 July 1944 05:45 12 Hamburg (fighters) "307 aircraft - 187 Halifaxes, 106 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos from Nos 1, 6 and 8 Groups - to Hamburg. German fighters again appeared, this time on the homeward flight, and 18 Halifaxes and 4 Lancasters were lost, 12 per cent of the force. The Halifax casualties were 9.6 per cent; This was the first heavy raid on Hamburg since the Battle of Hamburg just a year earlier. The bombing on this raid was not well concentrated. The Germans estimated that only 120 aircraft bombed in the city area, with no recognisable aiming point, though western and harbour areas received the most bombs." [25]
3 August 1944 04:05 13 Forêt de Nieppe [26] "1,114 aircraft - 601 Lancasters, 492 Halifaxes, 21 Mosquitos - carried out major raids on the Bois de Cassan, Forêt de Nieppe and Trossy St Maxim flying-bomb stores. The weather was clear and all raids were successful. 6 Lancasters lost, 5 from the Trossy St Maxim raid and 1 from the Bois de Cassan raid. 1 Lightning and 1 RCM aircraft accompanied the raids." [27]
4 August 1944 05.05 14 Bois de Cassan (or "Bois de Casson", location not attested, but nearby at Prérolles) [28]) (a V-1 storage site just outside Paris) "291 aircraft - 169 Halifaxes, 112 Lancasters, 10 Mosquitos - of Nos 6 and 8 Groups attacked the Bois de Cassan and Trossy St Maxim flying bomb sites in clear visibility. 2 Halifaxes of No 6 Group were lost on the Bois de Cassan raid and 2 Lancasters on the Trossy St Maxim raid." [29]
7 August 1944 04:50 15 Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (not "Hogue" as originally recorded) "1,019 aircraft - 614 Lancasters, 392 Halifaxes, 13 Mosquitos - attacked five aiming points in front of Allied ground troops in Normandy. The attacks were carefully controlled - only 660 aircraft bombed and German strong points and the roads around them were well cratered. 10 aircraft - all Lancasters - were lost, 7 to German fighters, 2 to flak and 1 to an unknown cause." [30]
9 August 1944 04:25 16 La Bretèque
12 August 1944 04:15 17 La Neuville
14 August 1944 04:45 18 Falaise. "805 aircraft - 411 Lancasters, 352 Halifaxes, 42 Mosquitos - to attack 7 German troop positions facing the 3rd Canadian Division, which was advancing on Falaise. 2 Lancasters lost... Most of the bombing was accurate and effective but, about half-way through the raids, some aircraft started to bomb a large quarry in which parts of the 12th Canadian Field Regiment were positioned... 13 men were killed and 53 were injured and a large number of vehicles and guns were hit. This was believed to have been the first occasion on which Bomber Command aircraft had hit friendly troops during the Battle of Normandy." [31]

Sorties 19-26: Germany

These missions penetrated deeper into Germany primarily making attacks on oil plants. There was also one mission in the Netherlands. On sortie 26, 27 September, over Sterkrade, they were nearly destroyed by flak; their plane's nose was shattered.

Crew 103 Sorties 19-26
Date Time Sortie Event
15 August 1944 03:30 19 Soesterburg, Netherlands. "1,004 aircraft - 599 Lancasters, 385 Halifaxes, 19 Mosquitos, 1 Lightning - attacked 9 airfields in Holland and Belgium in preparation for a renewed night offensive against Germany. Visibility was perfect and all raids were considered successful. 3 Lancasters lost. The invasion of Southern France started in the early hours of this day. The landings were only lightly opposed and the Allied troops advanced rapidly. The Allied break- out from Normandy was also taking place at this time." [32]
16 August 1944 05:05 20 Kiel, Germany. "348 aircraft - 195 Lancasters, 144 Halifaxes, 9 Mosquitos - to Kiel. 3 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters lost. This raid was only partially successful." [33] (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 05:45 21 Bremen
6 September 1944 04:10 22 Emden, Germany. "105 Halifaxes and 76 Lancasters of Nos 6 and 8 Groups on the first large raid to Emden since June 1942; it was also the last Bomber Command raid of the war on this target. The force was provided with an escort, first of Spitfires and then of American Mustangs. Only 1 Lancaster, that of the deputy Master Bomber, Flight Lieutenant Granville Wilson, DSO, DFC, DFM of No 7 Squadron, a 23-year-old Northern Irishman, was lost. Wilson's aircraft received a direct hit from a flak shell and he was killed instantly, together with his navigator and bomb aimer, Sergeants D Jones and ER Brunsdon. The 5 other members of the crew escaped by parachute. The bombing was accurate and Emden was seen to be a mass of flames, but no local report is available other than a brief note which states that several small ships in the harbour were sunk." [34]
10 September 1944 04:30 23 Le Havre (presumably Le-Havre-Straße, Bremen, Germany, not the Le Havre in France). "992 aircraft - 521 Lancasters, 426 Halifaxes, 45 Mosquitos - attacked 8 different German strong points around Le Havre. Each target was separately marked by the Pathfinders and then accurately bombed. No aircraft lost." [35]
11 September 1944 05:15 24 Castrop Rauxel (bags of flak). "379 aircraft - 205 Halifaxes, 154 Lancasters, 20 Mosquitos - carried out attacks on the Castrop-Rauxel, Kamen and Gelsenkirchen (Nordstem) synthetic oil plants. The first 2 targets were clearly visible and were accurately bombed but the Nordstem plant was partially protected by a smoke-screen which hindered bombing and prevented observation of the results. The 3 forces were escorted by 26 squadrons of fighters - 20 squadrons of Spitfires and 3 each of Mustangs and Tempests. No German fighters were encountered. 5 Halifaxes of No 4 Group and 2 Pathfinder Lancasters were lost from the Nordstem raid and 1 Lancaster was lost from each of the other raids. These loss were caused by flak or by 'friendly' bombs."
15 September 1944 06:15 25 Kiel, Germany (second trip). "490 aircraft - 310 Lancasters, 173 Halifaxes, 7 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups - to Kiel. 4 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters lost. The evidence of returning crews and of photographs caused Bomber Command to record this as 'a highly concentrated raid' with 'the old town and modern shopping centre devastated'." [36]
27 September 1944 05:20 26 Sterkrade oil plant (badly holed by flak). It was for this flight that bomb aimer Cuthbert Rae received his Distinguished Flying Cross medal: "On one occasion when engaged on a mission against Sterkrade his aircraft was subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire. During the bombing run the nose of his aircraft was shattered and Flying Officer Rae sustained cuts to his face and hands. Undaunted by these harassing circumstances this courageous officer returned to his position immediately and successfully completed the bombing run." On this mission RCAF notes that "171 aircraft - 143 Halifaxes, 21 Lancasters, 7 Mosquitos - of 6 and No 8 Group attempted to bomb the Sterkrade oil plant. Only 83 aircraft bombed the main target, through thick cloud; 53 aircraft bombed alternative targets, most of them aiming at the approximate position of Duisburg. No aircraft lost." [37]

Sorties 27-33: Germany

Currie's final missions were part of huge Allied saturation bombing efforts in the Ruhr area.

Crew 103 Sorties 27-33
Date Time Sortie Event
6 October 1944 06:40 27 Dortmund. "Dortmund: 523 aircraft - 248 Halifaxes, 247 Lancasters, 28 Mosquitos - of Nos 3, 6 and 8 Groups. No 6 Group provided 293 aircraft - 248 Halifaxes and 45 Lancasters, the greatest effort by the Canadian group in the war. This raid opened a phase which some works refer to as 'The Second Battle of the Ruhr'. 5 aircraft - 2 Halifaxes (of No 6 Group), 2 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito - lost, less than 1 per cent of the force raiding this Ruhr target on a clear night. The Pathfinder marking and the bombing were both accurate and severe damage was caused, particularly to the industrial and transportation areas of the city, although residential areas also suffered badly." [38]
9 October 1944 06:55 28 Bochum. "Bochum: 435 aircraft - 375 Halifaxes, 40 Lancasters, 20 Mosquitos - of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 4 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost. This raid was not successful. The target area was covered by cloud and the bombing was scattered." [39]
14 October 1944 06:00 29 Duisburg - Operation Hurricane "Operation Hurricane was a 24-hour bombing operation to "demonstrate to the enemy in Germany generally the overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Forces in this theatre" (in the directive to Harris ACO RAF Bomber Command)[4] and "cause mass panic and disorginazation [sic] in the Ruhr, disrupt frontline communications and demonstrate the futility of resistance" (in the words of the Official RAF History)."
14 October 1944 06:35 30 Duisburg "Bomber Command continued Operation Hurricane by dispatching 1,005 aircraft - 498 Lancasters, 468 Halifaxes, 39 Mosquitos - to attack Duisburg again in 2 forces 2 hours apart. 941 aircraft dropped 4,040 tons of high explosive and 500 tons of incendiaries during the night. 5 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes were lost.

Nearly 9,000 tons of bombs had thus fallen on Duisburg in less than 48 hours. Local reports are difficult to obtain. The Duisburg Stadtarchiv does not have the important Endbericht - the final report. Small comments are available: 'Heavy casualties must be expected.' 'Very serious property damage. A large number of people buried.' 'Thyssen Mines III and IV: About 8 days loss of production.' 'Duisburg-Hamborn: All mines and coke ovens lay silent.'" [40]

23 October 1944 05:55 31 Essen "1,055 aircraft - 561 Lancasters, 463 Halifaxes, 31 Mosquitos - to Essen. This was the heaviest raid on this target so far in the war and the number of aircraft dispatched was also the greatest number to any target so far; these new records were achieved without the Lancasters of No 5 Group being included. 5 Lancasters and 3 Halifaxes were lost. 4,538 tons of bombs were dropped. More than 90 per cent of this tonnage was high explosive (and included 509 4,000-pounders) because it was now considered that most of the burnable buildings in Essen had been destroyed in earlier raids. The greater proportion of high explosive, against all the trends in earlier area-bombing raids, was now quite common in attacks on targets which had suffered major fire damage in 1943... Total effort for the night: 1,197 sorties, 8 aircraft (0.7 per cent) lost" [41]
25 October 1944 05:25 32 Hamburg. Target: oil refineries [42] 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, devastation of Harburg city
28 October 1944 06:05 33 Cologne "Cologne: 733 aircraft - 28 Lancasters, 286 Halifaxes, 19 Mosquitos. 4 Halifaxes and 3 Lancasters lost. The bombing took place in 2 separate waves and the local report confirms that enormous damage was caused. The districts of Mülheim and Zollstock, north-east and south-west of the centre respectively, became the centre of the 2 raids and were both devastated. Much damage was caused to power-stations, railways and harbour installations on the Rhine." [43]

Return to Canada

Date Event
8 December 1944 Repatriated to Canada
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. Photographed with infant nephews Doug Currie and Allan Currie, for Winnipeg Free Press front page, 21 December 1944.
20 March 1945 To Number 5 Release Centre, Winnipeg [44]
26 March 1945 Released from military service
5 April 1945 Distinguished flying cross award effective date as per London Gazette dated 13 April 1945.
16 September 1947 Start RCAF service again; teaching pilots.
27 January 1949 RCAF service stops for second and final time.

Awards

Neill Currie's medals

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

  1. UK Distinguished Flying Cross (no bars)
  2. 1939-45 Star
  3. France and Germany Star
  4. UK Defence Medal
  5. Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (Worn with marching figures to the front. With a bar for 60 days outside of Canada)
  6. War Medal 1939-45

Note that Currie did not receive the Air Crew Europe Star because it was awarded only for service from 1939 until the D-Day landings, and his first flight was 3 weeks afterwards.

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