CURTIS Wilfred

Wilfred CURTIS  1907 – 1940

4446379 Corporal Wilfred Curtis, 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 15 May 1940 aged 33.  He is buried at Leopoldsburg War Cemetery [1] and is commemorated on West Auckland War Memorial.

Family Details

Wilfred Curtis was born 1907, the son of William and Elizabeth Curtis.[2]  In 1931 Wilfred Curtis married Hannah Jane Shaw. [3]  In 1939, Hannah Curtis lived with her parents at Salisbury Square, West Auckland. Those recorded are George and Ethel [parents] Thomas, Eva, Peggy and Hannah [possibly 2 others].[4]  Wilfred was not recorded.  It is likely that since he served with 2/DLI which was a regular army unit, he was posted to barracks.[5]

Service Details

The service details of Corporal Wilfred Curtis have not been researched.

At the start of the war, the 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry [2/DLI] was stationed at Woking and came under the orders of the 6th Brigade together with 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers and 1st Royal Berkshire, 2nd Division.[6] 2/DLI was mobilised and brought up to strength with reservists,

25 September 1939:  2/DLI crossed to France, disembarked at Cherbourg 26th, concentrated at Chantenay near Le Mans and moved up to the Belgian border.  HQ was at Bercu near Lille where it remained engaged in improving defences known as “the Gort Line” until the storm broke in May 1940.[7]

10 May at 5.35am:  the German invasion commenced.  On the 11th, 2/DLI moved off and by the evening on the 12th occupied positions opposite Gastuche with HQ in the village of La Tombe.  D Company under Captain W.B. Hutton was on the left, B Company under Captain F.R. Tubbs was in the centre, A Company under Major J.R. Cousens was on the right and C Company under Captain R.H. Blackett was in reserve near battalion HQ.  12th May was quiet.  Late on the 13th the 4/7th Dragoon Guards retired through the battalion and late on the 14th, all bridges were blown.

15 May, dawn: The battle started in earnest when a platoon of B Company was rushed and overrun however, this attack was repelled.  D Company was subjected to a heavy attack which penetrated the forward posts as deep as the Chateau de Laurensart, despite a counter attack by the reserve company.  The situation was not restored until about 4 pm when a company was brought up from the brigade reserve.  A second attack failed.

Second Lieutenant R.W. Annand was awarded the VC for his inspiring example and personal courage commanding a platoon in D Company.  It was posted to defend the bridge by which the enemy had made several determined efforts to cross and infiltrate the Battalion’s position.[8]

The Battalion’s casualties in defending the only serious attacks made against the 2nd Division were “surprisingly low” and the position had been maintained intact.  Elsewhere, the fighting was less favourable.

The 6th Brigade has 34 burials for the 15 May in Leopoldsburg War Cemetery of which 26 are 2/DLI burials one of whom is Corporal W. Curtis, 7 are 1/RBR and 1 is 1/RWF.  There are 2 earlier deaths, 1 soldier of 2/DLI for the 10th and 1 casualty serving with 1/RBR for the 11th May.[9]

Corporal Wilfred Curtis was Mentioned in Despatches, his action to which this relates has not been researched.

Burial [10]

Corporal Wilfred Curtis is buried at grave reference VII, Row B.12, Leopoldsburg War Cemetery, Limburg, Belgium.  His headstone bears the following epitaph:

In God’s garden we linger as years roll by with one we loved best “Till We Meet”

His burial place was originally at Gastuche temporary burial ground and is was brought to Leopoldsburg War Cemetery in November 1946 for reburial. [11] There are a number of other DLI headstones alongside including 445346 Corporal M. Wilson, 44846 WO.III [PSM] R.W. Ditchburn, 4448703 Corporal J. Cuthill, 4446936 Private R. Harper, 4449353 Private W.T. Smith and 4533970 Private H. Harrison all killed in action on the same day.  There are now 767 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, only 35 original burials associated with isolated engagements near the town in May 1940.  Of the remainder, some are burials from a military hospital which was established in Leopoldsburg during the latter part of 1944 and others were brought into the cemetery from the surrounding district.

Commemoration [12]

15 May 2008: The Monument for the Defence of the River Dyle at Gastouche, Grez-Doiceau, Belgium was unveiled.  It commemorates the 35 men who died during this action, including 28 other ranks from 2/DLI.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] I have not traced in the 1911 census a Curtis family in West Auckland.  There is a family living at Iveston near Consett but this may not be the correct family.

[3] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.444 1931Q3 Auckland

[4] 1939 England & Wales Register Where was Salisbury Square?

[5] “Faithful: The Story of the Durham Light Infantry” 1962 S.G.P. Ward p.460

[6] Ward p.460

[7] Ward p.468

[8] Ward p.470 & 471

[9] CWGC

[10] CWGC

[11] Concentration Report Form

[12] “The Bugle” Issue no.3 Autumn 2008 p.194/5 “Dyle S For Success” Major M. Pearce