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William George Curtin


William G Curtin joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938, where he trained at Hornchurch, Essex to become a flight controller, working in the operations room. He was stationed at Hornchurch throughout the Battle of Britain, when the station came under attack on at least five occasions. On 17 October 1941 Curtin was commissioned as an Officer and in November of that year began working in the Operations room at Debden first as Deputy Fighter Controller, then Fighter Controller.

No 71 Eagle Squadron was operating from Debden at the time of Curtin's arrival, and were flying 'Circus' and 'Rhubarb' missions. Among Curtin's responsibilities was the daily update of the Operations Records Book (ORB) for these missions.

On 29 September 1942, The Eagle Squadrons were absorbed in the US Army Air Forces and re-designated the 4th Fighter Group. Curtin remained at Debden as part of Headquarters 11 Group, when following the handover RAF presence at Debden began to wind down. After the base was taken over by the Americans, Curtin was one of a small number of personnel who remained in important roles on the base. He stayed at Debden until August 1943, when he was posted to 483GCC, the mobile Operations unit of RAF 83 Group (part of 2nd TAF combined operations unit) and promoted to Squadron Leader.

After Training exercises with 483 GCC he landed in Normandy on D-Day +5 (11th June 1944) and stayed with this unit as it provided air cover and fighter bomber support to the advancing allied armies through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was introduced to Winston Churchill at Bazenville in Normandy on 23rd July 1994, and met King George VI on 11th October 1944 at Erp in Holland. He was based in Northern Germany on VE Day, and shortly afterwards remembered visiting Children who had just been released from the Belsen Concentration camp.

Curtin was present when Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Debden base on 4 November 1942, he celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the RAF on 1 April 1943 and recalled a visit by Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent on 25 June 1943. Curtin befriended some of the American pilots from the Eagle Squadron and 4th Fighter Group including Colonel Chesley Peterson, Colonel Spiros "Steve" Pisanos, Lieutenant Frank Fink and Frank Smolinsky. He always fondly recalled his time with the Eagles' Squadrons at Debden and the many American friends he made whilst there.



  • Frank Fink

    Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot | 4th Fighter Group
    1st Lt. Frank M. Fink was a talented caricature artist. Assigned to 121 [Eagle] Sqn RAF, transferred to 335th FS 4th FG 8AF USAAF 14-Oct-42. ...

  • Chesley Peterson

    Military | Major General | Fighter Pilot 1055 single engine/Group Commander | 4th Fighter Group
    Whilst serving with No. 71 Eagle Squadron, he was promoted to Flt Lt - the first American in the Eagle Squadrons to be promoted above the enlisted rank of Pilot Officer. ...

  • Spiros Pisanos

    Military | Colonel | Pilot | 4th Fighter Group
    Steve Pisanos was born in Athens, Greece, in November 1919. Although he desperately wanted to fly, at the age of 18 he discovered that he did not have the academic qualifications required to enter the Greek Air Force Academy. Undaunted, he decided to...

  • Frank Smolinsky

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Pilot
    Joined RAFVR, service pilot training in US, shipped overseas to ETO, operational training at OTU, assigned to 121S, transferred to 335th FS, 4th FG 8AF USAAF ...

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Units served with

  • No 71 'Eagle' Squadron

    No 71 'Eagle' Squadron

    'On 19 September 1940, No. 71 was reformed at Church Fenton as the first 'Eagle' Squadron to be manned by American personnel. The Squadron received Hurricanes in November and became operational on defensive duties on 5 February 1941. No. 71 converted...

Associated Place

  • Debden

    Military site : airfield
    RAF Debden, construction of which began in 1935, is perhaps most famous as a Battle of Britain fighter airfield, partly responsible for the defence of London in 1940. In 1942 it was also home to three RAF 'Eagle Squadrons’ of volunteer American pilots...


Event Location Date
Born West Ham, Canning Town, London 15 April 1908
Married Kathleen Card Green Street, London, UK 26 December 1935
Joined RAF Reserve Hornchurch, Greater London, UK 21 November 1938 – 17 August 1945

Originally enlisted at rank of Aircraft Hand 2nd Class (AC2). By the end of the war had been promoted to Squadron Leader.

Promoted 1940

Promoted to Sergeant and Deputy Controller

Based Debden 1941 – 1943

Fighter Controller for Eagle Squadrons

Commissioned Cosford, Wolverhampton, Shropshire WV7, UK 17 October 1941

Officer Training took place at RAF Cosford

Died May 1996


Date Contributor Update
25 February 2016 11:52:09 Al_Skiff Changes to unit associations

Individual Eagle Squadron association

Date Contributor Update
07 July 2015 10:19:27 Simoncurtin Changes to biography

family memorabilia and research

Date Contributor Update
07 July 2015 10:05:35 Simoncurtin Changes to biography

family memorabilia and research

Date Contributor Update
07 July 2015 09:38:25 Simoncurtin Changes to biography

Family memorabilia and research

Date Contributor Update
07 July 2015 09:24:49 Simoncurtin Changes to events

Family memorabilia and research

Date Contributor Update
07 July 2015 08:18:21 Simoncurtin Changes to middlename and suffix

From family memorabilia and research

Date Contributor Update
06 July 2015 17:55:18 Simoncurtin Changes to suffix, service number and person associations

From family and researched records

Date Contributor Update
06 July 2015 10:22:12 Emily Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, person associations, unit associations and place associations

Information and research provided by Simon Curtin, who is the Grandson of William Curtin