Francis Lawrence CURR DFM and bar

Poppy

CURR, Francis Lawrence

Service Number: 404005
Enlisted: 26 April 1940
Last Rank: Flying Officer
Last Unit: No. 156 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 21 June 1920
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Downlands College Toowoomba
Occupation: Jackaroo, Accountant
Died: Accidental (Flying Accident), Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia, 18 December 1944, aged 24 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Port Moresby (Bomana) Memorial
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World War 2 Service

26 Apr 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 404005, Aircrew Training Units
5 Apr 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 404005, No. 38 Squadron (RAF), Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre
2 Aug 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 404005, No. 75 Squadron (RNZAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
18 Oct 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, No. 75 Squadron (RNZAF)
5 Nov 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, SN 404005, No. 156 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
18 Dec 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN 404005, Air War SW Pacific 1941-45

Help us honour Francis Lawrence Curr's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by David Barlow

Flying Officer Francis Lawrence Curr, DFM & Bar 404005 RAAF and Warrant Officer Neil Draper Kellas VX75426 of the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) were presumed killed when Tiger Moth A17-589 of 33SQN crashed enroute Daru to Horn Island.

On 28 August 1944, 24-year-old Flight Lieutenant Francis Curr of No 33 Squadron was ferrying Tiger Moth A17-587 from Australia to Milne Bay when a propeller malfunction forced him to land on Daru Island.   On this day, following the installation of a spare propeller -– and against the advice of local Army authorities and carrying an unauthorised Army passenger -- he departed Daru Island at 1820 apparently intending to fly back across the Torres Strait to Horn Island.

A hazardous undertaking in failing light and in adverse weather, in a single-engined light aircraft with no radio, dinghy or extra fuel.   The aircraft failed to arrive and, despite extensive searches, no trace of the aircraft or its occupants were found.

A subsequent Court of Inquiry attributed the accident to Curr's making 'an unauthorized flight at night without adequate night flying equipment, safety equipment or an escort'.   

In 1940, Curr was one of the first selected under the Empire Air Training Scheme and, following graduation, served in the Middle East with the RAF’s No 38 Squadron (50 operations) before flying Wellingtons with No 75 (RNZAF) Squadron in the UK.   For pressing home attacks from low altitudes, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (1942).   In November 1942, he transferred to the RAF's No 156 Squadron, Pathfinder Force, which operated Lancasters. His determination and fearlessness in raids over Italy and Germany won him a Bar to his DFM (1943): he was one of only two RAAF airmen to be so decorated.   Back in Australia in July 1943, with some seventy-five operations to his credit, Curr was employed on instructional duties.   Following an unenthusiastic performance, he was posted in March 1944 to No 33 Squadron to fly C-47 transports from Milne Bay.

Their bodies were not recovered and they are commemorated on the Port Moresby Memorial

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

From the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Francis Lawrence Curr (1920-1944)

Francis Lawrence Curr (1920-1944), air force officer, was born on 21 June 1920 at Clayfield, Brisbane, third son of Frederick Carlton Curr, grazier, and his wife Maude Alice, née Rogers, both Queensland born. Educated at Downlands College, Toowoomba, Frank worked as a jackeroo, studied accountancy and obtained a private pilot's licence. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 26 April 1940, one of the first to be selected under the Empire Air Training Scheme.

Graduating as a pilot, Curr was promoted sergeant in December 1940 and sent to the Middle East where he joined No.38 Squadron, Royal Air Force, in April 1941. He took part in fifty bombing sorties before moving to England in April 1942. From August to October he flew Wellingtons of No.75 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force. For pressing home attacks from low altitudes, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (1942). In November he transferred to the R.A.F.'s No.156 Squadron, Pathfinder Force, which operated Lancasters. His determination and fearlessness in raids over Italy and Germany won him a Bar to his D.F.M. (1943): he was one of only two R.A.A.F. airmen to be so decorated. Although an exceptionally experienced and successful captain of heavy bombers, he was not commissioned until 18 October 1942. Australian newspapers had criticized his lack of advancement.

Back in Australia in July 1943, with some seventy-five operations to his credit, Curr was employed on instructional duties. Following an unenthusiastic performance, he was posted in March 1944 to No.33 Squadron, R.A.A.F., to fly Dakota transports from Milne Bay, Papua. He continued to be discontented by R.A.A.F. policy which generally debarred those with extensive operational experience elsewhere from postings to combat units in the South-West Pacific Area. On 28 August, while ferrying a Tiger Moth from Australia to Milne Bay, he was stranded on Daru Island off the south coast of Papua; he remained there for several weeks awaiting a spare propeller.

On 24 September 1944 the aircraft was again serviceable. Against the advice of local army authorities, and accompanied by a soldier who did not have permission to travel with him, Curr took off at 6.20 p.m., apparently intending to fly back across Torres Strait to Horn Island. In failing light and adverse weather, and in a single-engined, light aircraft, with no radio, dinghy or extra fuel, he embarked on a risky venture. The Tiger Moth did not arrive. Despite extensive searches, no trace of it or its occupants was found. Frederick Curr offered a reward of £500 for his son's rescue. A court of inquiry attributed the accident to Curr's making 'an unauthorized flight at night without adequate night flying equipment, safety equipment or an escort'.

A Catholic and a bachelor, Curr was 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall and 12 stone (76 kg) in weight, with brown eyes and hair. He was an outspoken and high-spirited young man, never amenable to authority, but very well liked by his contemporaries. His somewhat turbulent character probably accounted for the delay in granting him a commission. The refusal of the R.A.A.F. to approve his requests to return to bombing operations resulted in a deterioration in his flying performance and morale, and, considering the circumstances of his last flight, his judgement.

Alan Fraser, 'Curr, Francis Lawrence (1920–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/curr-francis-lawrence-9882/text17489, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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