Christopher Frederick Currant, DSO DFC*
14 December 1911 – 12 March 2006,
Early life and enlistment in the RAF
Currant was born on 14 December 1911 in Luton, Bedfordshire. Aged 25 he joined the Royal Air Force in 1936; after qualifying as a pilot he joined No 46 Squadron as a Sergeant pilot and later with No 151 Squadron; he was later commissioned as a pilot officer and began service with 605 squadron at RAF Wick, Caithness on the Wick Bay.
World War II
In the second week of The Battle of France in May 1940, his squadron was moved down to RAF Hawkinge in Kent; from here the squadron flew sorties in France where enemy aircraft were attacking the retreating British Expeditionary Force. On one early sortie the engine on his Hawker Hurricane failed, forcing him to crash land in a field, breaking his nose and he was forced to make his own way to Calais where he managed to get a lift on board a vessel back to England.
605 squadron was then moved to RAF Drem where it took part in the interception of the famous Luftflotte 5 raid which took place on 15 August. Currant claimed two Heinkel He 111s shot down. The squadron was again moved south again – this time to RAF Croydon and was soon in the midst of the heaviest fighting in September 1940.
Currants tally of enemy aircraft rose steadily and on 15 September alone, he had accounted for 2 Dornier Do 17s, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and damaged another three Do 17s as well as a Heinkel He 111. By the end of 1940 his tally stood at 8 destroyed and 5 shared, and he was awarded the DFC on 8 October 1940 and the Bar to it in the consecutive month.
David Niven and Bunny Currant in The First of the Few (1942)
Currant then had a spell as the chief flying instructor of No. 52 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Debden; this was followed by the command of Spitfire Squadron No. 501 in August 1941. It was at this time that he played himself in the film The First of the Few, which starred David Niven.
He commanded the Spitfires of the Ibsley Wing from June until August 1942. It was at this time that he was also awarded the DSO. At this time he was mainly involved in operations over occupied France and the Low Countries. He was allowed a break from fighting and undertook a four-month lecturing tour in Eastern America and upon his return he went to 84 Group Control Centre, where he was involved in the allocation of target allocation in support of tactical air operations.
In February 1943 Currant was given the command of 122 Wing of the 2nd Tactical Air Force; he remained here until July 1944 and during this posting he was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Belgian) on 9 April 1943.
Currant chose to remain in the RAF after the war and had post-war postings in Washington DC where he was on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and this was followed by a year back in London at the Ministry of Supply. This was followed by a four-year posting to the Royal Norwegian Air Force Staff College – where the Norwegians awarded him the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav. He retired from the RAF in 1959 whereafter he joined an engineering firm in Luton – his employers developed weapons for the RAF. He finally retired in 1974.
Currant was married to Cynthia in 1942 and they had three sons and a daughter.
Honours and awards
- 8 October 1940 – Distinguished Flying Cross – Acting Flight Lieutenant Christopher Frederick Currant (43367).
This officer has led his flight with great skill and courage in air combats in the defence of London. He has destroyed seven enemy aircraft and damaged a number of others. His splendid example and fine fighting spirit have inspired the other pilots in his flight.
- 15 November 1940 – Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross – Acting Flight Lieutenant Christopher Frederick Currant, D.F.C. (43367), No. 605 Squadron.
Since September, 1940, this officer has personally destroyed six enemy aircraft and damaged several others, bringing his total to thirteen. He has led his flight, and occasions his squadron, with great success, and shows a sound knowledge of tactics against the enemy.
- 7 July 1942 – Distinguished Service Order – Acting Squadron Leader Christopher Frederick Currant, D.F.C. (43367), No.501 Squadron.
Squadron Leader Currant is a most courageous pilot and brilliant leader. His untiring efforts and outstanding ability have been reflected in the splendid work accomplished by the squadron which he commands. One day in March, 1942, he was wounded in the head during a sortie. Despite this, he flew his aircraft safely back to base. Following a short enforced rest, he returned with renewed vigour. Squadron Leader Currant has destroyed at least 14 and damaged many more enemy aircraft.
- 9 April 1943 – Croix de Guerre Belge – Conferred by the Belgian government to Acting Wing Commander Christopher Frederick Currant, D.S.O., D.F.C. (43367).
- 14 January 1944 – Mentioned in Dispatches by Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief – Wing Commander C.F. Currant, D.S.O., D.F.C. (43367) (Acting).
- 1 January 1945 – Mentioned in Dispatches by Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief – Wing Commander C.F. Currant, D.S.O., D.F.C. (43367) (Acting).
- 30 September 1960 – Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav
The Queen has been pleased to give and grant unto Wing Commander Christopher Frederick Currant, D.S.O., D.F.C., Royal Air Force (Retired), Her Majesty’s Royal License and authority to wear the decoration of Chevalier (First Class) of the Order of St. Olav, which has been conferred upon him by His Majesty the King of Norway, in recognition of valuable services rendered by him as an adviser at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Staff College.