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626 Squadron and RAF wickenby

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Jack Curries' Crew taken in January 1944 with  EE133  'Charley Two' in the background and without Jim Cassidy.

Left to right Myring, Currie, Bretell, Protheroe, Walker, Fairburn

 

Squadron Leader John Anthony Logan "Jack" Currie DFC (1921–1996)

 

Squadron Leader John Anthony Logan "Jack" Currie DFC (1921–1996) was born in Sheffield but moved as a child to Harrow, London. On leaving school he took a variety of jobs including being a cartoonist for the Harrow Observer and singer with a dance band. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for the RAF and having been successful in the aptitude tests was placed on the deferred service list. While waiting for his call up Currie found full time employment as a stretcher bearer/ambulance driver for Harrow council's rescue team, this was in addition to voluntary activity as an ARP runner.

Jack was called up in 1941 and after initial training was sent to the USA for pilot training. He  was posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby in June 1943. The crew consisted of  navigator P/O Cassidy, Sergeant Currie (pilot), Flight Sergeant Myring (bomb aimer), Sergeant Walker (flight engineer), Sergeant Fairbairn (wireless operator), Sergeant Protheroe (mid upper gunner) and Sergeant Lanham (rear gunner). All were on their first operational tour, Cassidy, Myring and Lanham were Australian and the other four British.

When 626 Squadron was formed in November 1943 his crew and their favourite aircraft EE133 -'Charley Two' together with the remainder of 12 Squadron's C Flight were transferred.

His first operation with his own crew was a mine-laying operation (known as "gardening") in the Bay of Biscay on 6 July 1943. In August Jack was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (back dated to 4 July). The same month on a mission to attack Hamburg the Lancaster they were flying was caught in severe weather conditions, so bad that Currie did give preparatory instructions to bail out. The aircraft lost 10,000 feet  before Currie regained control and managed to fly the aircraft home despite the loss of aileron control. 

In his book 'Lancaster Target'  he relates how he put Lancaster DV190 into a spin while avoiding flak on his way home from Hamburg in bad weather. He apparently ended up tearing the wing tips off and concussing his engineer. Jack brought the aircraft back using rudder control and differential power settings on the engines to steer the aircraft.

For this episode an award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was made to Currie, Cassidy and Lanham and the Distinguished Flying Medal to Fairbairn.

Jack Currie, who was a stretcher-bearer in the London Blitz before he gained his wings, later wrote this passage about returning home after one of his early operations: ‘After six hours at the controls, my contact with the aircraft was instinctive and relaxed. We rolled into a turn together, held the turn steadily, without adjustment, with no anxious glances at the dials or searches for the dim horizon. I could scan the sky or talk to the crew, while my sense told me that the turn was accurate. How satisfying it was to fly the Lancaster.’

 

In November 1943 Currie and his crew became part of the newly formed 626 Squadron also based at Wickenby and remained there till their tour was completed in early 1944. Lanham's own tour finished slightly earlier as he had already completed 9 operations before joining Currie and the rest.

After a period of leave Currie was posted to 1662 Heavy Conversion Unit based at RAF Blyton and qualified as an instructor flying the Handley Page Halifax. Promoted to Flying Officer he spent several months at Blyton before being posted to RAF Sandtoft. 

He returned to operations with the Pathfinder force flying Mosquitoes of the 1409 Weather Flight. He was awarded the DFC in 1944, and was flying Mosquitoes when the war in Europe ended.He retired with the rank of Squadron Leader in December 1964.

In later years he became a renowned aviation writer and broadcaster. His books include Lancaster Target  and Mosquito Victory.

 

When war had  broken out, drawing remained a pastime which absorbed him for the rest of his life resulting in a wealth of amusing and perceptive sketches of his family life in the RAF and the places he visited.
On occasion his cartoons even made the pages of national publications such as Punch. After Jack Currie died in October 1996 aged 74 his second wife Kate gathered together many of his drawings into a book which she published and called Jack Currie's World.

So that will explain it then  ...

In the mid 1990's during the time we lived in north Germany we had to make a trip to a village half-way along the Bremen-Hamburg autobahn. This was so that my father-in-law - F/Lt James Cassidy DFC* RAAF (626 & 550 Sqdns) - could stop by a village (Elsdorf) which he reckoned according to his log-book was approximately where they had to do dump their bomb-load before heading for home. 

We literally took a tour of the village graveyard but found no evidence of a sudden cluster of graves on or around the  date in August 43. 

Needless to say we did not stop by the local pub to enquire if anyone remembered anything! Probably the worst that happened was that a few cows were dispatched.

We never met Jack Currie but we spoke to him a couple of times on the phone when he called to talk to Jim when he was staying with us. 

We have a copy of Lancaster Target inscribed to my wife and myself and signed by Jack. Jim of course has one signed "To Jim, who will always be the friend of Jack Currie" (this is in addition to 40+ copies he has owned over the years and given away to friends and acquaintances).

Jim is still alive and well and living in Co. Antrim.

I printed off the web-page to post to my father-in-law - he'll be chuffed to see it.
And Charlie Lanham, in the picture with Jim, will be 95 on 12 July - we got an invite to a party (although as it is in Perth WA we wont be able to pop over for it!)     
Peter Coulter   30th June 2011


Jim Cassidy's First Tour

 

Jim Cassidy did his second tour with 550 Sqdn. His DFC was gazetted in the supplement to the London Gazette 20/12/45 

 

In memory of Squadron Leader Jack Currie DFC (1921-1996)
"My elderly parents went on a coach holiday during the summer of 2003. They were taken on an excursion to the city of Lincoln on Monday 9th June where they rested on a seat outside the tourist information office. This is situated at the top of "Steep Hill". Being aircraft enthusiasts, my dad wore his Battle of Britain Memorial Flight baseball cap which I had given to him. 

From behind the seat a man appeared asking my father about his cap badge. From then on a lengthy discussion took place on the Lancaster bomber. The man wore a tweed jacket and flannels and carried a leather portfolio with two straps and a lock. This looked like it was for drawings, sketches or whatever as used by an artist. He continued the conversation by saying he had been a Lancaster pilot and later went on to fly Mosquitos with the pathfinders. My father then spoke about the Panton brothers at East Kirkby and the gentleman said he knew them well. They have a Lancaster that is allowed to taxi and do engine run ups. 

This man didn't quite look as if he was old enough to be a Lancaster pilot as my father explained to me. Also, he had a very clear officer type accent that was pleasant and unmistakable. Before leaving, the man shook hands with my father then continued on up the hill. My dad phoned that evening to tell me this story as I was reading a book called "Lancaster Target" by Squadron Leader Jack Currie DFC. I said this is very strange because from what you have told me, it sounds like Jack Currie and here I am reading one of his books. 

I was intrigued and when my parents returned home, I let them see a copy of "The Watchtower" that was screened in 1985 and was about haunted airfields. Jack Currie presented the programme. Dad says "thats him". He looks a bit older but I would know that voice anywhere. After watching telly for an hour or so, my dad suggested I have a look on the library computer to see if I could find anymore information on Jack Currie. There was a website relating to his drawings being displayed at Newark library in memory of him. He had died on 19th Oct 1996. 

Two months to the day after their holiday, my mother took ill on 9th Aug and died soon afterwards. I felt somehow this was a message of reassurance that the grass is greener on the other side. I have since read all of Jack Curries books and so admire the man for being such a gentleman. This is a true story and I have dedicated it to him."    http://www.ghosthunters.org.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=462

 

 

I have a web site dedicated to my father who flew with 12 & 463 squadrons with Bomber Command.

Back in the 1980s I read 'Lancaster Target' and realised that Jack Currie was flying on the same ops as my dad!

This set me off into tracing my dad's RAF history.Two years ago my daughter brought me a domain name for a web site to put all my research onto.

 http://www.raf-bombercommand.co.uk 

My fathers Mid Upper Gunner Brian Heath flew his second tour with 626. A picture of him and his crew is on the site.  I spoke to Jack Currie several times and have a letter from him - he was a really nice guy.

 I hope you get as much joy out of your web site as I do from mine and if I can help in any way please let me know.

Andy Smith   December 1st 2010

 

Brian Heath's crew

 

Brian Heath is front right on the 4th photograph

 

Came across your web site and was interested in photos and references to Jim Slattery including info from his son Dennis. Attached are some photos which may be of interest. They belonged to my late mother, and some of them appear to have been taken at the same time as the photo on page 6 of your crews pages. My mum was in the WAAF from 1941 and served with 106 squadron based at RAF Metheringham. Not quite sure how she met Jim and his crew given the bases seem quite far apart, but believe she corresponded with Jim's wife whilst he was a PoW. My parents maintained friendship with the Slattery family for many years afterwards.

 If you have e-mail address for Dennis, please feel free to forward this (and my e-mail address) to him as I have a couple more photos of his Mum and Dad which he may like to see if he doesn't already have them and will gladly send copies to him if he wants to get in touch.  

I also have some more RAF related photos of people and places most of which are a mystery to me - if you are interested in seeing them or have any contacts who might be able to help identify them, please let me know and I'll happily share them.

Sandy Johnstone, Little Neston, Cheshire. 

 

 







Do you have anything to add to these pages?

We are always pleased to hear from anyone who can add to our knowledge about 626 Squadron. If you have memories, corrections, photographs or just plain observations, your input will be gratefully accepted.         tom.bint2@gmail.com