Des Curtis was born July 16, 1923 in Caterham, England. He was born in the Guards’ Depot there, as his father was a member of the Irish Guards, one of the foot guards for the monarchy. Des’s father also happened to be a Great War veteran who served in the trenches and the major campaigns of that war, so Des’s was imbued with military ideals and history from a young age. He finished grammar school in 1939, deciding to stay in London to start work as a bank clerk. The Blitz was underway at this time, and Des served as a fire watcher at night. When his time to join up came, Des decided he did not want the mud and water of the trenches, so he selected the Royal Air Force. Des spent the next 19 months in training, part of it at the Number 31 School at Port Albert, Ontario in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. He remembers his time in Canada and the U.S. fondly, as he does his return trip to England on the Windsor Castle. Back home, Des was assigned to Coastal Command and Squadron 235, acting as a navigator in a 2-man Beaufighter crew. Des’s job in that squadron was to fly reconnaissance missions and to support attacks on German convoys and shipping around the British isles. He was later transferred to a Mosquito squadron, and from a base in northern Scotland he was part of the mission to sink the German battleship Tirpitz. After months of training and the development of bouncing bombs suited to the Mosquito, things didn’t go as planned, and Des’s part in the mission was scrubbed. He stayed on in the Mosquito though, later transferred to the south to take part in attacks on U-boats operating out of France. On one occasion, Des’s aircraft sank a U-boat, U-976; after the war Des was able to meet the U-boat’s captain, and the two struck up a friendship. Des finished the war doing non-combat duties for Coastal Command; he also developed his relationship with his future wife, who had been in the WAAF during the war, and together they served in the Auxiliary Air Force in the postwar period. Crestwood students had the opportunity to do a zoom interview with Des Curtis in the autumn of 2022.
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