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Sergeant Samuel Walter CURRY (551339)

224 Sqdn., Royal Air Force

Born: 5 November 1920, Rothbury, Northumberland
Died: 21 July 1940, Skaggerak Strait (Age 19) 


Samuel Walter Curry was born in Rothbury, Northumberland about November
1920. He was the second of at least four sons born to Walter Jocelyn Curry and his wife Annie Emma (nee Payne)
1. Sometime after 1929, the family moved from Hexham to Glenridding where his father worked at the Greenside mine. We do not know if he attended Patterdale School but he did go on to attend Penrith Grammar School.

Sam Curry joined the RAF in January 1937 and trained at RAF Cranwell as a wireless operator, passing out in May 1937, before joining 224 Squadron at Boscombe Down. Initially, the Squadron was equipped with Avro Ansons but these aircraft were replaced with Lockheed Hudsons in May 1939 and the squadron became operational with the new aircraft in August 1939. It then moved to its war station at RAF Leuchars in Scotland and began to fly patrols over the North Sea looking for German ships as well as providing convoy escorts. Sam volunteered as an an aerial gunner, presumably sitting inside the dome that can be seen in the photograph below.


On the 8th October 1939, a Hudson from the squadron reported sighting a German force consisting of a battleship, a cruiser and four destroyers off the south-west coast of Norway but bad weather prevented the sighting from being followed up. Anti-shipping operations were added to the squadron's duties after the German invasion of Norway.

On the 20th of July 1940 Sam wrote home to his parents in Glenridding. The following extract from his letter gives us a glimpse of life at RAF Leuchars. After a late night in the NAAFI, Sam was woken at 0230hrs, fell asleep again and woke just in time to get airborne at 0425hrs. Whilst on patrol, they sighted a German merchant ship leaving the harbour at Stavanger and attacked it amidst anti-aircraft fire from the ship. His description of the action epitomises the nonchalant attitude the RAF boys had during this 'Battle of Britain' period of the war.

As soon as we appeared we got a dose of AA fire from his gun, so we dropped our 'eggs' first to keep the kettle boiling. Three 250lb bombs dropped within 20 yards of the side so although we didn’t see any damage it's quite possible that a plate was pushed in. We didn’t wait for results because there are a few Jerry fighter squadrons there and the pilot remembered he was hungry. I was gunner which was probably another reason.

The AA fire looked pretty queer. The first I saw of it was a shower of three bursting about fifty yards away on one side. I only saw it out of the corner of my eye and I thought they were fighters coming down through the clouds. I brought my guns round before I really saw it and by that time the sky was covered with little black patches so I brought the guns back to rest while the pilot put the machine into dive for the bombing attack.

Well that’s all there is of that one, nothing else happened during our five hours out there. All the way back I was wondering what sort of panic there was on shore. I had visions of millions of ME’s roaring into the air after one wretched little Hudson who had wandered in and wandered out again. I can just imagine what we’d be called by the blokes who had to get out of bed because of us.

Well Middi (presumably his pilot) is asleep now and I’ll have to go to bed just in case we’re on again tomorrow. I don’t want to be late again, so Cheerio for now and please send on Jack’s address and Jack’s result as soon as you can.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Cheerio.
                                                                                                                             Sam

This was to be Sam's last letter home, the following day, the 21st of July 1940, several Hudsons, each with it's crew of four, left RAF Leuchars to patrol the sea area between Norway and Denmark, known as the Skaggerak. The German support boat Nordmark was spotted and attacked. During the attack, the Hudson with Sam Curry on board was hit and although not seen to crash, it was last seen disappearing into the clouds. Initially the crew were reported as missing, giving some hope to his family, however, in early August his parents received the following letter from the Air Ministry:

"It is with regret that we write to say that as all our efforts to trace your son have failed, all hope must be abandoned that he is alive"

The Medal Records for WW2 servicemen are contained within their service records, which have not been made publicly available. However, having served for around 4 years before he was killed, Sergeant Curry qualified for, and would have been posthumously awarded, the following medals2:

        1939-1945 Star 
        1939-1945 British War Medal

Sergeant Samuel Walter Curry is remembered and commemorated on: 

The Patterdale War Memorial
The Runnymede Memorial, Surrey3 (Panel 13)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate


What became of his family?

Parents
His parents continued to live in Glenridding and were living at West Side, Glenridding, when Walter died, aged 67, in November 1959 and when Annie died, aged 93, in December 1984. 

Siblings
Sam had at least three brothers:
The eldest George P Curry was born in Rothbury around August 1919.
Thomas A Curry was born in Hexham around November 1926
and the youngest, Jack P Curry was born in Hexham around November 1928.


Notes:

1. Walter Jocelyn Curry and Annie Emma Payne were married in Guisborough, Yorkshire around February 1918. 

2. Medals

1939-1945 Star - This star was awarded for service in the Second World War between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. Royal Navy personnel had to complete 6 months service afloat in active operational areas. Army personnel had to complete 6 months service in an operational command. Airborne troops qualified if they had participated in any airborne operations and had completed 2 months service in a fully operational unit. RAF personnel had to participate in operations against the enemy providing that 2 months service had been completed in an operational unit. Non-aircrew personnel had to complete 6 months service in an area of operational army command. Merchant Navy qualified if they completed 6 months service, and at least 1 voyage was made through an operational area. Members of fighter aircraft crews who took part in the Battle of Britain (10 July to 31 October 1940) were awarded the "Battle of Britain" bar to this medal.

The criteria is 180 days’ service, although some special criteria apply when, at certain specified times, just 1 days’ service is required. These were actions for which a more specific campaign medal was not issued. Examples are: France or Belgium: 10 May to 19 June 1940, St.Nazaire 22-28 March 1942, Dieppe: 19 August 1942, Iraq: 10 April to 25 May 1941 and Burma (Enemy Invasion): 22 February 1942 to 15 May 1942.

Also recipients were awarded this star if their service period was terminated by their death or disability due to service. Also the award of a gallantry medal or Mention in Despatches also produced the award of this medal, regardless of their service duration.

1939-1945 British War Medal  - The War Medal 1939–1945 was a British decoration awarded to all full time service personnel of the Armed Forces wherever their service during the war was rendered. Operational and non-operational service counted provided personnel had completed 28 days service between 3rd September 1939 and the 2nd September 1945. In the Merchant Navy there was the requirement that 28 days should be served at sea.

Personnel who were eligible for a campaign star yet who had their service cut short by death, wounds or capture by the enemy, still qualified for this medal. Eligible personnel who had been mentioned in dispatches during the War were entitled to wear a bronze oak leaf emblem on the ribbon. Those War Medals issued to UK personnel were not officially inscribed. However, those issued to Australian and South African personnel were officially inscribed. It is sometimes described as the "Victory Medal" for World War II, although that is not its correct name.

3. The Runnymede Memorial, Surrey

The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede commemorates by name over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. They served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force. The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill. The engraved glass and painted ceilings were designed by John Hutton and the poem engraved on the gallery window was written by Paul H Scott. The Memorial was unveiled by The Queen on the 17th October 1953. More Details

Research Documents
        Sam Curry's Last Letter Home - 20 Jul 1940
        We are very grateful to Sam’s niece Mrs Ann Hunter (nee Curry) and his nephew Ian Curry, for sharing some                wonderful family mementos with us, especially his last letter and photographs.
Samuel Walter CURRY, Death Report, C&W Herald - Aug 1940
S W Curry on Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Penrith Memorial Plaque