Saturday, 13 June 2020

George William Curry and Pathfinder Squadron 627



A 627 Squadron Mosquito

I went to visit my Dad today and spent about an hour talking to him before he got too tired. He's dying of cancer but as always he was in a cheerful mood. He told me a bit more of the story about his Dad who he never knew. His Mum hardly ever talked about him so what he knows comes from some of Granny's papers and my Dad's investigation after she died. He found a whole new branch of his family including Aunts and cousins and a Great Aunt Olive.

Before joining the RAF George William Curry worked for an insurance company called UKAPIAN. The only remnant of UKAPIAN now is one page on the website of Axa who ended up buying them, but they started life as a motor insurance company run by a temperance society. Teetotalers are good customers for a motor insurance company but there wasn't enough of them and UKAPIAN had to branch out. At any rate my Dad has George's beer tankard. My Dad's middle name is George, as is my brother David's middle name and my son Benjamin's.

At the start of the second world war the standard deviation, the average distance of a bomb from where it was supposed to go, was about five miles. A chap called Leonard Cheshire who flew Lancaster bombers had the idea of dive bombing to a few hundred feet and dropping coloured incendiaries on the targets. This proved to be a great idea, except that the Lancaster bombers were made of metal and at a few hundred feet above ground could be hit by rifle and small arms fire and chewed to pieces.

Leonard switched to the De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber plane which was faster and more manoeuvrable. It was also a wooden plane and you could merrily punch holes in it with gay abandon and so long as you didn't hit a control wire it would keep on flying. The wooden structure made it virtually invisible to radar. A single Pathfinder could drop flares on multiple targets, so a squadron of Pathfinders could support a whole group of squadrons of bombers.

After the introduction of the Pathfinders the standard deviation for the British bombs dropped to 1 mile.

George was already a pilot in the RAF when the second world war started and he was part of the Battle of Britain. He joined the newly formed Pathfinder Squadron 627. George was an acting Wing Commander during the war but left at the lower rank of Squadron Leader.  55 000 people from Bomber Command died during the war and vacancies were frequent. Although the lifespan of a Pathfinder was normally days George survived the war and was one of only a handful of pilots to  receive both Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and  Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) medals twice. DSO with bar and DFC with bar, four medals.

Left to Right: LAC Harding, ground crew; the navigator Flight Sergeant Ranshaw and the pilot Flight Sergeant Marshallsay; groundcrew, LAC James Wookey and LAC Kingscott.

The London Gazette of October 1944 remarks:
Fourth Supplement to the London Gazette of Friday the 13th of October 1944 - Tuesday 17 October 1944

Distinguished Service Order

Acting Wing Commander George William CURRY DFC. (86389), RAFVR, 627 Sqn.

Since assuming command of his squadron, Wing Commander Curry has taken part in a number of operations against a variety of enemy targets. His great determination and capable leadership have resulted in many successful operations. On several occasions his aircraft has been damaged by anti-aircraft fire. The exceptional energy and initiative which this officer has displayed, together with his outstanding keenness and cheerful personality, have had a most marked effect upon the morale and efficiency of his squadron. He has set a worthy example.
And then in February 1945:
Fourth Supplement to the London Gazette of Friday the 23rd of February, 1945 - TUESDAY, 27 FEBRUARY, 1945

Air Ministry, 27th February, 1945.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve
the following awards in recognition of gallantry and
devotion to duty in the execution of air operations: 

Bar to Distinguished Service Order.
Acting Wing Commander George William CURRY, DSO, DFC (86389), RAFVR, 627 Sqn.

Wing Commander Curry has completed a second tour of operational duty during which he has completed many notable sorties. On one occasion he took part in an attack which resulted in the breaching of the Dortmund-Ems Canal. On another occasion, Wing Commander Curry led the squadron on a target far into enemy territory. Whilst over the target considerable anti-aircraft fire was encountered. Every aircraft was hit. Nevertheless, the operation was completed successfully. Munchen-Gladbach, Stuttgart, Brunswick and Bremerhaven have been among the various targets Wing Commander Curry has attacked. This gallant and resourceful squadron commander has set a splendid example to all.
After the war George remained in the RAF and flew Venom jets. Every year he would take part in the Battle of Britain celebrations. In September 1948, out of practise flying the wooden Mosquitos, on the day before the celebration George crashed attempting a low roll with him and Flight Lieutenant on board. Both of them died. One of the few things that Granny told Dad was that the Flight Lieutenant was the pilot and George was the co-pilot, but my Dad doesn't think a Flight Lieutenant would have been the pilot. George is laid to rest in Coningsby cemetery military graves section. 

My Dad has no memory of his father but he has his log books and he remembers the rationing that was still in place after the war. Because George died on duty Granny got a decent sized pension. She went on to marry Peter John Foord who I knew as Grandpa and who raised my father as a son and whose name I bear twice.



No comments:

Post a comment