The AIF Project

John Eugene CURTIS

Regimental number3034
Place of birthNorway, Maine, USA
ReligionChurch of England
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation23
Height5' 8.125"
Weight160 lbs
Next of kinFather, Alton Laforest Curtis, Norway, Oxford, Maine, USA
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date7 March 1917
Place of enlistmentPort Adelaide, South Australia
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name43rd Battalion, 7th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/60/3
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A30 Borda on 23 June 1917
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll43rd Battalion
FateKilled in Action 1 June 1918
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Other details

War service: Western Front

Embarked Adelaide, 23 June 1917; disembarked Plymouth, 26 August 1917, and marched in to 11th training Bn, Larkhill.

Proceeded overseas to France, 23 January 1918, and taken on strength, 43rd Bn, 29 January 1918.

Reported missing in action, 1 June 1918; Court of Enquiry, Vergies, 9 December 1918, confirmed fate as killed in action.

Statement by 3094 Pte R. MORRISON, 43rd Bn, Bath War Hospital, 10 October 1918: 'In the beginning of the summer Pte J.E. Curtis was out with a raiding party and he was badly wounded in the chest with a Machine gun bullet. Two men carried him back part of the way but then left him as he was too far gone. Pte Curtis was a friend of mine and I got the above information from X Private Phillips who belonged to the same Platoon.' 732 Pte H. Ritchie, 43rd Bn, Racecourse Hospital, Cheltenham, stated, 10 November 1918: 'During a raid on an outpost at VILLERS BRETONNEUX Curtis was severely wounded in the chest by 2 bullets. Stretcher men were sent to bring him in but on their arrival at the place, found he had been removed supposed by the enemy. The raid took place about 11.00 pm 1.6.18 a dark night. I did not actually see him hit, nor after the event, but he being a friend of mine I was told the information by an Ambulance man. He was an American by birth.' Statement by 2448 W Rapley, Littlemore Camp, 12 October 1918: '[He was] known to his comrades as "Yank".' Statement by 4867 Pte H. Wait, Hurdcott, 6 September 1918: '3034 Pte Curtis J.E. 43rd Battalion was with me on wiring fatigue on no mans land at Villers Bretonneux on 1.6.18. I saw him wounded in the hand and I went back to dressing station through a wood which was being heavily shelled. I never saw him after this.' Statement by 3097 Pte W. Marls, Westham Camp. 10 November 1918: '[Curtis] Went over the top in a raid. Lieut. Green returned. Stated Curtis being wounded search being made for his body later. But not found it is generally believed he, Curtis, was wounded and in hands of "Germany".'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

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