Curwood Neville Armstrong

The Allied Bombing Campaign

The Allied Bombing Campaign against the Axis powers in Europe during the Second World War changed drastically as the war progressed. As Hitler's Wehrmacht had conquered most of Western Europe by the summer of 1940, Prime Minister Churchill sought new ways to strike back at the Nazi menace. Part of this response would be a more intensive bombing campaign by the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command against Germany and the occupied countries. The Royal Canadian Air Force would play a significant role during this campaign.1

As the air war continued, Royal Air Force commanders began to realize that expecting an aircrew to find a target such as an airfield or oil refinery and bomb it accurately proved to be very difficult task. In February of 1942, Bomber Command decided to shift its focus to the ‘morale of the enemy civilian population’ instead. The aiming points for bombers became any significant structure within a town or city. The difference between combatants and non-combatants was blurred and civilian casualties increased dramatically.2

The Royal Canadian Air Force's Number 6 Group was formed in October of 1942, with 8 heavy bomber squadrons. At its wartime peak, 14 squadrons flew within No. 6 Group. The squadrons within No. 6 Group flew strategic bombing missions against U-Boats in the North Atlantic, naval facilities along the French coast, industrial installations on the European continent and Germany’s urban centres.3

424 Squadron, No. 6 Group, R.C.A.F, was one of the original squadrons in the group. It flew night time bombing missions over Europe until 1943, when it was transferred to North Africa supporting Allied campaign in the Mediterranean Theatre of War. In the summer of 1943, 424 Squadron was sent back to England and was equipped with Halifax bombers. In January of 1945, the squadron was trained on Lancaster Mk1 aircraft and flew them until the end of the war. Following the Allied invasion of the European continent in the summer of 1944, the Allied bombing campaign was intensified against German targets including oil refineries, bridges, military facilities and enemy ground units. No. 6 Group R.C.A.F lost 4,200 airmen in the over 40,000 operational sorties they flew.4

Pilot Officer Curwood Neville Armstrong

Curwood Neville Armstrong was born on August 8, 1924, in Owen Sound. Armstrong was the son of Vera and Leslie Armstrong.  He attended Strathcona Public School from 1929 to 1938, before attending the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute from 1938 to 1940. Curwood was a member of numerous local lacrosse and hockey teams in Owen Sound. Armstrong worked as an office clerk at the Owen Sound Arena in 1940, before obtaining a job with Russell Brothers Company as a machinist. Curwood Armstrong enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force on August 14, 1942.5

Armstrong first qualified as an Aircraftman, 2nd Class.  Through further training he was promoted to Air Bomber-Leading Aircraftman and Bomber-Special Technical Sergeant. On December 23, 1943, Curwood Armstrong was posted to No. 2 Air Bomber Group and transferred to the No. 4 Aircrew Graduate Training School where he furthered his Canadian training. On February 27, 1944, Armstrong was sent to the Halifax Overseas Transport Depot and prepared to travel cross the Atlantic.6

Technical Sergeant Armstrong arrived at the No. 3 R.C.A.F Personnel Reception Centre  and was 'taken on strength' as part of the No. 20 Advanced Flying Unit. For the remainder of 1944, Armstrong trained as a member of a bomber crew at No. 11 Canadian Air Force Base and with the 83rd Operational Flying Unit before being posted to No. 61 Base on September 27,1944. Armstrong remained there until the following spring when he became a bomb aimer with 424 Squadron on March 17.7

On the morning of April 4, 1945, RF-150 QB-W for Whiskey, took off from Skipton-on-Swale, England, with the mission to bomb a synthetic oil refinery in Merseburg, Germany. After being hit over enemy territory, RF150 limped back to the U.K. desperately looking for an alternative landing strip, but crashed in a wooded area near Lane End, Buckinghamshire. Curwood Armstrong is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in the United Kingdom with the rest of his aircrew.8  

1, 2. History UK: The Bombing Offensive
3. Royal Air Force: No. 6 (RCAF) Group
5, 6, 7. Library and Archives Canada: Service Files of the Second World War
8. Aircrew Remembered: 424 Squadron RF-150