Currie, Ross

Ross, who was born at Inverell in New South Wales, enlisted in the RAAF on the 16th August 1941. He received all of his pilot training in New South Wales, and on completion, he was posted to the UK where he encountered Spitfires for the first time at No.57 OTU Hawarden.

Next came a short posting to Gibraltar, before joining 453 Squadron in 1943 when the Squadron was operating out of Hornchurch. Ross remained with the Squadron when it moved to Ibsley, then to Perranporth, and finally to Skeabrae in the Orkneys in October 1943 for some well-earned R and R. 

An interesting story on Ross reads as follows:

“Bad Day off Bishop’s Rock”

During late 1943, Sunderland Flying Boats on anti-submarine patrols were constantly being attacked by land based “packs” of German twin-engine fighters operating from bases in southern France. 453 Squadron, then flying Spitfire Mk VBs from Perranporth, Cornwall, were ordered to fly offensive patrols over the Bay of Biscay to intercept and destroy these “packs.” 

On Thursday 7th October 1943, two such patrols were undertaken, flying a triangular course approximately one hundred miles south-west of the Scilly Isles, with no contact being made on either patrol. However, the next morning, whilst carrying out a third patrol, 453 Squadron experienced one of its highest scoring days. Seven Spitfire VBs led by Squadron Leader D.G. Andrews (DFC) and comprising Ewins, McDade, Leith, Parker, Currie and McAuliffe identified and attacked eight ME 110s at sea level, resulting in five ME 110s being destroyed and one damaged. Research of German casualty records now confirm six ME 110s failed to return from this action.

Six ME 110s destroyed from the original eight encountered would ensure a “Bad Day off Bishop’s Rock” for ZG 1.

A flurry of activity as Spitfires moved into attack – Belly Tanks jettisoned – gunsights/firing buttons switched on – throttles rammed forward – aircraft surged with power as Red Section dived to attack at zero feet.

Unbelievable action followed with ME 110s breaking left and Spitfires attacking individual targets – visions of aircraft covered in flames cart-wheeling across the surface, whilst others engulfed in flames burning amidst columns of black smoke.

Turning behind an ME 110, gunsight filled, pressed gun button for a “sitter” and nothing! (Must have turned button to ‘off’ in the excitement.) This error nearly proved fatal as a hurried glance in the mirror showed another ME 110 right up my “jacksie.”

Broke “harder” than hard, weaving out of the melee to firstly breathe again, then scream back down and fire a long burst with full deflection at another ME 110 trying desperately to flee the scene.

Observing a Spitfire going into the ocean at 450 – (later proved to be Pilot Officer Hal Parker from Inverell, NSW) and another one climbing away trailing streams of grey smoke – eventually overtook Flight Lieutenant Ewins in time to see him bail out. Circled and gave radio transmissions to enable base to obtain a “fix” on his dinghy (later picked up by destroyer) and then rejoined two other Spits for return to base, landing straight in over the fence, without a circuit, as fuel dangerously low after 2 hrs 35 min flying time.

Another account of the same story is from an extract from “Air Extra” – “RAAF Fighters over UK” (Reference 453 Squadron)

One of the most successful scoring days occurred early October 1943, meeting a Messerschmitt BF 110 formation west of Brest on October 8th. Three of the pilots shot down five of their adversaries – two were destroyed by Flying Officer P. McDade in “FU-L” (EP-242), two by Pilot Officer Leith in “FU-C” (BM-243) and the other by Flight Lieutenant Ewins flying “FU-X” (EP-364).

Unbeknown to the Australians, they were fighting against 11/ZG-1 led by its Kommander, the 24 years old Hauptmann Karl Heinrich Mattern, an ace with 12 victories to his credit and a holder of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. No mean pilot, Mattern, at the controls of Messerschmitt BF-110 62-W/NR 120010, coded “S9+SP” he and the others all failed to return from this operation.

ZG-1 lost an additional three ME 110s on the same day in direct consequence of this action, but that’s another story.

In January 1944, Ross left 453 Squadron for flying instructor training at Montrose after which he served in that capacity on several stations in the UK before being repatriated back home in 1945. He was discharged on the 23rd August 1945.

Ross Currie of Cammeray, Sydney, NSW died on the 29th March 2000 in his 78th year in the Sirius Cove Nursing Home after a long battle with cancer. 

Bruce Read and Don Andrews DFC, edited by Paul Carter and Julie Halliday
The Spitfire Association