Sergeant Horace Augustus Curtis VC

Curtis VC

Medal entitlement of:
Sergeant Horace Augustus CURTIS
2nd Bn, Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Horace AugustusCurtis was born on 7 March 1891 in St Anthony-in-Roseland, Cornwall. He was a china clay worker when the war broke out, and immediately enlisted in August 1914, and was passed fit for duty on 12 September. He was attested into The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) at Bodmin on 14 September as No.15833 Private Curtis. However, 4 days later he was transferred to the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. There were a number of transfers to RDF from DCLI at this time.

The 7th (Service) Battalion was assigned to 30th Brigade in the 10th (Irish) Division at the Curragh. The 30th Brigade also contained the 6th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the 6th and 7th Battalions of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. The 30th Brigade moved to Dublin in February 1915 and then embarked for England in May 1915 and onto the Basingstoke area where they underwent training for the next 3 months. During that time, The Division was inspected by King George V on 28 May at Hackwood Park and by Field Marshal, Lord Kitchener on 1 June.

The Division embarked from Devonport on 11 July 1915, the 7th battalion R. D Fus aboard H. M. T Alaunia and via Malta and Alexandria, the 7th landed at the island of Mitylene off the Turkish coast on 25 July 1915. Horace's service with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (M. E. F) dated from 10 July 1915. The Battalion left Mitylene and landed at Sulva Bay, Gallipoli peninsular, Turkey on 7 August 1915.

In his book "The Tenth Division in Gallipoli" Major Bryan Cooper, who served with the Division, estimates that by the end of the Gallipoli campaign, the Tenth Division had lost 75% of its original strength killed or wounded. In his book "Ireland's Forgotten 10th" Capt. Jeremy Stanley states 3,000 men were killed or died from wounds, 25% of the Division's strength.

After Gallipoli, the 10th Division sailed for the base island of Lemnos (Mudros Harbour) on 30 September and in early October left for the port of Salonica in Greece. During a long stay in the Macedonian theatre of war and bitter fighting, Horace earned promotion during 1916 from unpaid Lance Corporal on 7 February to full Sergeant on 17 November 1916. He was also mentioned in Dispatches in the London Gazette on 21 July 1917.

After almost 2 years here, the Division sailed for Alexandria in September 1917 for Egypt and the allied offensive against the Turks in Palestine. A further 8 months later in April 1918, the 6th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the 7th Battalion R. D Fus had left the 30th Brigade, 10th Division and returned to Egypt in order to join units in France fighting the German advance.

On 23 May 1918, the 7th Battalion left Alexandria and landed at Marsailles, France on 31 May. On 6 June the Battalion was reduced to a Cadre. Surplus personnel, of whom Horace was one, were absorbed by the 2nd Battalion R. D Fus.

On 20 June 1918, Curtis returned to England where he went to Bermondsley Military Hospital in London for treatment for malaria, broken by a spell of home leave to Fiddlers Green between 24 July until 3 August, the first time in four years. He was finally cleared to return to his unit in France on 19 August and was back in France by 1 September and to the Front by 21 September.

Discounting his absence through illness, Horace had been with his new Battalion and in a new theatre of war only a few months when he won his VC. He rarely spoke of his achievement, humbled that he had been singled out for such an act when he had witnessed friends and colleagues carrying out similar acts of courage over those 4 long years, without official recognition, many of them losing their lives in the process. The overpowering emotion he recalled at the time of his action was one of anger

He was 27 years old and a Sergeant when he won his VC. On 18 October 1918, No. 14107 Sergeant Horace A Curtis, 2nd Battalion R. D Fus fought in action near Le Cateau that earned him the Victoria Cross. The following is the official citation, which appeared in the London Gazette on 6 January 1919.

No.14107 Sjt. Horace Augustus Curtis.2nd Battalion, R. Dub. Fus (Newlyn East, Cornwall) For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty East of Le Cateau on the morning of 18th October 1918, when in attack his platoon came unexpectedly under intense machine-gun fire. Realising that the attack would fail unless the enemy guns were silenced, Sjt Curtis, without hesitation, rushed forward through our own barrage and the enemy fire and killed and wounded the teams of two of the guns, whereupon the remaining four guns surrendered. Then turning his attention to a train-load of reinforcements, he succeeded in capturing over 100 enemy before his comrades joined him. His valour and disregard of danger inspired all.

His VC was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 8 March 1919.

Engraving on reverse of Victoria Cross:
14107 SJT. H.A. CURTIS

On 31 January 1919 he was back home and starting 28 days demobilisation leave and transferred to Class "Z" Army reserve on 23 March 1919. Curtis was finally discharged on 31 March 1920. He joined the 5th (Territorial) Battalion D. C. L. I on a 3-year engagement at St Columb on 5 May 1920. Private 5431368, he was rapidly promoted to Sergeant and by 27 August 1920 was W. O 2 (CSM). On 20 December 1921, Horace transferred to the 4/5th D. C. L. I and on 19 May 1923 his service was terminated at the end of his engagement.

He then returned to the job he held before the war. He died on 1 July the age of 77 after a long illness. His medals are in the Lord Ashcroft VC Collection.

Royal Dublin Fusiliers, awards and medals